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2013 September 30 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Va. Study Shows Higher Education Payoff

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Every $1 that Virginia spends on higher education results in $1.29 in new tax revenue and more than $17 in increased economic activity, according to a University of Virginia report.

The report by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service details the economic impact of the state’s public higher education system, which consists of 15 four-year institutions, one junior college and 23 community colleges.

The study was commissioned by the Virginia Business Higher Educational Council, which also released its 2013 policy agenda during a news conference at Old Dominion University.

The council formed a Grow By Degrees coalition in 2009 following several years of state budget cuts that reduced per-student higher education funding in Virginia by about 50 percent. Following the coalition of business, education and community leaders’ formation, the General Assembly passed legislation that helped slow down the rate of tuition increases and allowed 14,000 additional undergraduate students to enroll in 2009.

Coalition leaders say the study shows spending on higher education is a good investment.

“You tell me, how many other investments we can make in the state that generate a 29 percent return on investment?,” said John ‘Dubby’ Wynne, former CEO of Landmark Communications and chairman of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. “There’s just not that many.”

Among other things, the report also found that public higher education institutions accounted for 131,230 jobs and $28.447 billion in gross domestic product.

Coalition members intend to take their message to the General Assembly as they broaden their original goals, which included making college more affordable for low-and middle-income families. Among the 13 policy items identified this year, are providing state funding for student work-study programs, bolstering job training programs and providing financial incentives to enable colleges to give students the option of purchasing four-year tuition guarantees.

That guarantee already exists at the College of William & Mary, which recently approved a new tuition plan. There, new undergraduate students will pay 20 percent more in tuition and fees than similar students paid last year, but that price will be guaranteed for four years of undergraduate study. Existing students will see their tuition and fees increase 1.8 percent.

While Grow By Degrees policy agenda outlines a number of items requiring funding, it doesn’t specify any specific dollar amounts. Still, legislative leaders appear supportive.

House Majority Leader Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment were both on hand at the news conference to lend their support to the coalition. Gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli have also both expressed support for the Grow By Degrees campaign.

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Also from BROCK VERGAKIS, Associated Press

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