• Follow on Snapchat
  • Follow on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Follow on Instagram
  • Watch on YouTube
For all Virginians

Gillespie Releases Higher Education Plan for ALL Virginians

Plan Aims to Make Virginia the “Opportunity Capital” of America

Gillespie: “I know what a college degree has meant in my life. I want every Virginia student to have that very same opportunity.”

2017 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie today announced a detailed plan designed to make Virginia the “Opportunity Capital” of America. As governor, Gillespie will forge three types of strategic partnerships related to higher education: a major new business-education partnership focused on workforce development and retention in Virginia, a new spirit of partnership between the Commonwealth and our colleges on access and affordability for all Virginians, and a consumer-focused partnership between higher education institutions and the students and families they serve. This is Gillespie’s fourteenth major policy announcement in his campaign, and tenth since becoming his party’s nominee.

“My parents never went to college. But they insisted that my brothers and sisters and I did. I know what a college degree has meant in my life. I want every Virginia student to have that very same opportunity. We owe it to them” said Ed Gillespie. “In order for Virginia to truly grow, we need higher education to be more than just a degree manufacturer; we need higher education to contribute to economic growth and job creation and to help our students to pursue their dreams and add to the fabric of our Commonwealth . To realize our full potential, we must first ensure that higher education is affordable. With common sense reforms, strong partnerships and clear direction, our higher education institutions will thrive. As governor, I will work to make Virginia ‘The Opportunity Capital’ of the nation. I will fight to ensure that Virginia students have that opportunity of a higher education. It means the world”

Speaking about the policy Honorary Policy Chair and former governor George Allen said, “Ed Gillespie understands all the key factors in attracting and growing investment and jobs in Virginia. Virginia must engage and align job-creating business leaders, educational institutions, and local, regional and State officials- to take action to assure students of all ages are acquiring the skills and abilities to implement new technologies and advance productivity. For Virginia to compete and prosper, we need a skilled, capable workforce in addition to comparatively lower taxes, more affordable energy prices, reasonable regulations,  prompt permitting, right-to-work laws and connected infrastructure.”

“Advanced education is increasingly essential for unlocking the opportunities of the 21st century,” added Republican Nominee for Lieutenant Governor Senator Jill Vogel. “Making higher education more affordable and expanding on-the-job training partnerships will help make Virginia the talent capital of the nation and give our next generation of leaders the skills they need to keep Virginia at the cutting edge of innovation and economic growth. This plan reflects our commitment to keeping the American Dream alive and well in Virginia as the next generation prepares to compete in a rapidly changing and competitive global economy.”

Ed Gillespie’s Higher Education Plan for All Virginians:

Ed’s plan to make Virginia the OPPORTUNITY CAPITAL focuses on forging three types of strategic partnerships related to higher education:

  1. A major new business-education partnership focused on workforce development and retention in Virginia.
  2. A new spirit of partnership between the Commonwealth and our colleges on access and affordability for all Virginians.
  3. A consumer-focused partnership between higher education institutions and the students and families they serve.

Partnership Initiative #1:  

Engaged leaders with business and education know-how from the public and private sectors will generate many important ideas and strategies, and Ed will encourage development of active, ongoing partnerships that address at least these major priorities:

  • CURRICULUM ALIGNMENT:  Partnerships between business organizations and colleges, universities, community colleges, and other providers to provide ongoing curriculum advice and assistance. 
    Ed will make it a priority to remedy the continuing misalignment between what educational institutions teach and what employers need.  Through collaboration between businesses and colleges, employers will provide information concerning their evolving human capital needs on the front end so that educators can develop curricula that lead to specific employment opportunities for their graduates on the back end (after program completion).  Through a systematic approach to this voluntary collaboration, the degree and credential programs offered by four-year schools and community colleges will assure the availability of a skilled workforce that small and large Virginia businesses need in order to grow.   It will help get our Virginia economy growing strongly again, so that graduates can land good jobs here in our Commonwealth.   And it will minimize the spending of personal and public resources on “academic bridges to nowhere” that have caused critics to question the practical value of higher education.
  • REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS:  Partnerships on a regional basis, as envisioned and promoted through the recent GO Virginia legislation, where colleges and community colleges work seamlessly with businesses and local governments in the region on strategies to create higher-paying jobs. 
    The innovative GO Virginia program is an example of the kind of business-education collaboration Ed will create as governor.  While GO Virginia is off to a fast start, it deserves and needs a supportive governor who understands the value of organic job growth and collaborative economic and workforce development in each of Virginia’s varied regions, and who uses his office to encourage broad-based participation in the program by regional business, education, and government leaders.  Ed will make the program’s success a priority.
  • INTERNSHIPS AND EXTERNSHIPS FOR WORK EXPERIENCE:  Encourage business partnerships to better align curriculum and apprenticeship, internship and work- based learning opportunities.  
    A recent study ranked Virginia 43rd in the nation for grants and student work opportunities, an aberration from the positive rankings our higher education system typically receives and likely a reflection of insufficient direct engagement between our higher education institutions and the business community.  Ed will convene leaders from business and education to assess the current status and reasons for Virginia’s low ranking in this area, with a goal of getting Virginia into the top 10 states for internships as quickly as possible.  He will make internships and similar work opportunities a performance metric for Virginia’s public institutions of higher education, promote forgivable loan options to make such opportunities more broadly available, and support making consumer information on this performance metric available to prospective students and their parents.
  • RETENTION:  Partnerships to encourage talented young Virginians to attend college in the Commonwealth and to stay here to work after graduation.  For three years in a row, more people have left Virginia than have moved in, and many of the departing Virginians have been mobile young people who appear to have left for better jobs elsewhere.  To make matters worse, more than 50 percent of those leaving held a bachelor’s degree. To have our children and grandchildren leaving their communities and state to find good work elsewhere is a sad new reality for many Virginia families, and it is also a leading indicator of a brain drain that is harmful to our Commonwealth.  Business, education, and government leaders should collaborate on the best strategies to reverse this negative trend, with possible solutions ranging from improved internships, work-study and “pipeline” programs with Virginia employers, to marketing and digital outreach initiatives that show young Virginians the advantages of staying in the Commonwealth to learn and work.
  • NEW VIRGINIANS:  Partnerships that promote Virginia’s higher education system to talented young people from other states (for slots not dedicated to Virginians) and that encourage the students to stay and work in Virginia after graduation.  
    Ed’s highest priority will be ensuring that all Virginians have access to our colleges and universities and choose to stay in the Commonwealth for their post-secondary education and work.  After assuring access for all qualified Virginians, our colleges and universities should seek to attract talented young people from outside the Commonwealth who will come here to study and stay to work.  Successful alumni who are leaders in business and other pursuits can play a valuable role in this recruitment.  Virginia’s success in attracting the “best and brightest” out-of-state human capital was a major factor in our state’s strong economic growth for many years, but recently our economic growth has stagnated and more people are leaving Virginia than have come here.  In addition to helping to make Virginia the OPPORTUNITY CAPITAL and enriching the student experience, attracting top human capital from outside the state will make it easier for Virginians to afford college, since out-of-state students on average pay more that twice what Virginians pay to attend our public colleges and universities.
  • RETURNING VETERANS: Partnerships that help veterans build on experience gained in military service and obtain the degrees or credentials that lead to good job opportunities.  
    Our veterans not only deserve the assistance of a grateful nation; they also have unique skills that Virginia must put to work.  Working creatively with business and education leaders, Ed will craft practical solutions for veterans that focus on streamlined access to degrees or other credentials that lead to good jobs.  In addition to receiving credit for relevant “on-the-job” experience gained during military service, veterans need one-stop digital and in-person access to information on degree and credential programs and associated work opportunities.  Even with the notable recent initiatives and successes here in Virginia on veterans issues, broadening the engagement of the business community to enhance job access for veterans remains an urgent need.  Ed will use the strategic partnership he forms between higher education and business leaders to promote improved educational and job opportunities for veterans throughout Virginia.
  • CRITICAL WORKFORCE SHORTAGES:  We must create partnerships to accurately identify the disciplines where business expansion in Virginia and/or economic development efforts are seriously impeded by specific skills gaps, especially workforce shortages that cut across multiple regions, and fashion collaborative strategies for systematically remedying the shortages.  
    The skills gap is widening, and over the next decade 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled. The severe shortage of manufacturing skills can potentially impede the trend of growth of Virginia’s manufacturing. And, this skills gap can impact businesses ability to implement new technologies and increase productivity. Information technology and healthcare are among the areas often cited as examples where shortages currently exist, but there are many more.  Such shortages not only are missed opportunities for good employment for Virginians; they also are a major impediment to new business investment in Virginia, since businesses will not place new facilities where an adequate workforce is lacking.  Business, education, and government leaders must ensure that reliable skills gap data is assembled and assessed, including utilizing the forthcoming regional findings through the GO Virginia process, and then develop concerted strategies to remedy the gaps with targeted educational and training programming and marketing efforts.  In many cases, these strategies will need to include access to online programs and other programing tailored to the circumstances of working adult Virginians in need of training or retraining.
  • RESEARCH PARTNERSHIPS:  Partnerships among higher education institutions and between universities and business organizations to promote university-based research, attract more federal and private research investment in Virginia, and translate research into commercial opportunities such as start-up businesses.  
    In the 2016 legislative session, Virginia took the first major step in many years to promote collaborative research focused in areas likely to lead to business startups, but since then progress in implementing this important initiative has been slow.  Virginia’s higher education institutions can and should be “best in class” when it comes to unleashing the creative skills of students and faculty and collaborating with business to bring new ideas and innovations to market.  Business, education and government leaders must work together to identify and reduce barriers to startups and growth, and create incubators, accelerators, innovation zones, and other tools that have proven successful in helping entrepreneurs translate research into commercially viable, job-producing businesses.  Consider the life sciences growth in Virginia and in Charlottesville in particular. This is a result of emerging research partnerships. Ed will continue to advance this partnership through his innovation and economic growth plan.

Partnership Initiative #2:

Six key initiatives will define the new spirit of partnership that Ed will create to bend the college cost curve and assure affordable access for all Virginians:

  • RESULTS-FOCUSED FUNDING:  Expectations and accountability for results that matter on an institution-specific basis.  
    Ed wants Virginia to base funding for its public colleges and universities more on the individual performance of the institutions, with emphasis on results that matter to students and the Commonwealth.  In our strong system of varied institutions, each school’s mission, situation, student base, market strength, and opportunities for educational and economic contributions is distinctive.  In this day of constrained resources, focus is essential:  every school cannot be everything to everyone.  Building on the six-year planning process refined under the Top Jobs Act, the Commonwealth and its individual public colleges and universities should work in partnership to establish agreed upon performance objectives and metrics and corresponding financial support from the Commonwealth.  While the individual performance agreements will vary, all should address the results that matter most to students and the Commonwealth, including, for example, the number of Virginia students the institution will enroll, graduation rates and speed, job placement success and earnings expectations, internship and student work opportunities, net cost to students after financial assistance (including expected student loan debt levels), the institution’s contributions to statewide and regional economic development, and, where applicable, research and research commercialization activities. At the same time, we must ensure that institutions are not punished for taking at-risk students.
  • FINANCIAL PREDICTABILITY:  Making state funding more reliable and predictable, and passing along those benefits to students and their parents.  
    Ed agrees with business and education leaders that it is time to follow through on plans to create a higher education reserve fund in Virginia, one that will make state support for higher education less vulnerable to economic swings and more reliable and predictable for higher education managers and the students and families they serve.  It is a business maxim that revenue uncertainty increases costs.  In addition, two recessions after the turn of the century prompted deep state funding cuts that drove tuition sharply higher for Virginia students and families, a pattern that was not new in the Commonwealth.  Governor McDonnell’s bipartisan higher education commission seven years ago sought to break this costly cycle by urging creation of a higher education reserve fund, and the General Assembly endorsed the proposal in the Top Jobs Act of 2011.  Recent actions by bond rating agencies suggest that Virginia needs to increase its reserve levels generally, and doing so through creation of a higher education reserve will have the added advantages of improving affordability for Virginia students and enabling our public colleges, universities, and community colleges to operate more efficiently.  Virginia students and their families will benefit significantly if the four-year net cost of attending a Virginia higher education institution can be guaranteed, or at least made transparent and predictable at the time a student is first admitted to a public college, university, or community college in Virginia.  This goal is achievable if the results-focused funding approach described above is combined with a reserve fund that makes state support reliable and predictable.
  • NET COST RESTRAINT:  Reining in the net cost to students and the resulting student debt burden.  
    Instead of finger-pointing over the causes of escalating college costs, Ed wants the Commonwealth and its colleges to work in partnership to decisively improve affordability for Virginia families.  The proposals of the preceding two paragraphs—institution-specific performance agreements that address net cost to students, and stabilization of operating support from the Commonwealth—are foundational aspects of Ed’s affordability strategy.  Additional measures Ed will pursue include increasing financial aid and work-study opportunities for both low and middle income families, working with the business community to establish incentives tied to post-graduation employment, establishing the innovative income sharing agreement (ISA) approach by which colleges and students share the risk and reward of post-graduation earnings, linking incentive funding from the Commonwealth with specific tuition limits at public colleges, sustained support for tuition assistance (TAG) grants to Virginia’s impressive array of independent colleges, [and collaboration with non-profit programs that enhance affordability and access, such as the GRASP program.  Attracting higher-paying out-of-state students for slots not dedicated to Virginians is also an underutilized strategy for reducing costs to Virginia students while also enriching the student experience and attracting high-skilled individuals to the Commonwealth.  Finally, the OPPORTUNITY CAPITAL Partnership described above, a wide-ranging set of business and higher education collaborations that Ed will promote as governor, will bring both business resources and expertise to the higher education setting, with positive consequences for efficiency and affordability.
  • AFFORDABLE ALTERNATIVES:  Providing students and their families with an expanded array of choices, including lower cost alternatives.  
    As college costs have escalated, students and families have searched for more affordable alternatives.  Ed wants Virginia and its public colleges to be leaders in developing these alternatives and making more students and families aware of them.  Familiar strategies worthy of continued support and expansion include online learning opportunities, community college transfer programs, collaborative high school and community college (dual enrollment) programs, and advanced placement options.  Ed also wants to work with Virginia’s colleges and universities to expand the number of structured courses of study and expedited degree programs that are offered, and to explore opportunities for no-frills degree programs that offer reduced fees in exchange for fewer amenities.  There undoubtedly are other innovative ideas:  a Virginia system of higher education that leads the nation in quality and value has the creativity to also lead on affordability and access.  By creating a new spirit of partnership between the Commonwealth and its colleges, supported by wide-ranging partnerships with business, Ed will usher in a new era of affordable access to post-secondary education for all Virginians.
  • INCENTIVIZED COLLABORATION:  Having the higher education institutions partner strategically to improve outcomes and control costs.  
    Ed is strongly committed to bending the cost curve and helping to make our high-performing colleges and universities even more productive and efficient.  He will ask the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) to expand on the recent work by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) by comprehensively examining the progress of each institution in addressing the JLARC recommendations and in implementing restructuring reforms, Top Jobs Act measures, economic development objectives, and other recent policy initiatives.  Where appropriate, business insights and expertise gained through the Opportunity Capital Partnership should be incorporated into this work.  Ed will place particular emphasis on promoting collaboration between and among higher education institutions, public and private, on measures that reduce costs and improve outcomes for students.  A prominent example is bringing the advantages of new technology to our campuses to improve both instruction and administration. The newly created Online Virginia Network has the potential to increase online course-sharing across institutions.  A revolving fund for technology acquisition, recommended by the McDonnell Commission but not yet implemented, can help higher education institutions overcome cost barriers to technology acquisition while replenishing the fund over time from the resulting savings. Ed will align state policies to encourage this and other kinds of smart collaboration across the higher education system.
  • ENHANCED GOVERNANCE:  Strengthening the role and impact of state-appointed fiduciaries in the management of public higher education institutions.  
    The decentralized character of Virginia’s higher education system heightens the importance of each institution’s governing board in ensuring that the institution serves students and the Commonwealth well.  Appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly, governing board members are the fiduciaries that the people of Virginia, through their elected representatives, have entrusted with the oversight of these public institutions.  It is essential that these board members do their jobs well, exercise informed judgment, and understand and respect the important distinction between fiduciary oversight and administration.  As governor, Ed will convene a highly respected panel of former rectors and board of visitors members, college presidents, and legislative and executive branch leaders to examine best practices in Virginia and elsewhere and craft policies that will enhance the effectiveness of Virginia’s higher education governing boards.  Among other ideas, Ed will direct the panel to examine the following:  terms of board members, including the possibility of five rather than four-year terms; inclusion of additional minimum credentials for board members in statute; enhanced board member training; and the appropriate extent, qualifications, and independence of staff serving the boards.

Partnership Initiative #3:

COST, COURSE, AND CAREER CHOICES.  Three closely related sets of consumer choices in higher education are to how to pay for college, what to study, and how to use the fruits of that study to access a good job and rewarding career.  Ed believes that all three require a more integrated, consumer-oriented approach on Virginia’s campuses.

Affordable alternatives.  Providing students and parents with a much wider range of affordable alternatives for paying for college is essential, and equally important is making those funding options easily accessible and fully known to all college consumers.

Student advising and course access.  Ed also wants colleges to step up their game when it comes to the student advising process and course availability.  For example, providing structured and streamlined courses of study can enhance both affordability and progress toward a degree or credential that leads to a good job.  But developing these options is not enough; administrators and faculty advisors also must take the steps necessary to arm students and parents with information about those choices.

Career advice and job placement services.  Graduate schools often excel at job placement, but colleges have traditionally placed relatively little emphasis on advising and assisting undergraduate students in landing good jobs.  This shortcoming in higher education creates another opportunity for us to stand out as the OPPORTUNITY CAPITAL.  Virginia can be known not only as the best place in the country to get post-secondary education and training, but also as the place where you get the best customer service in translating that educating and training into employment and earnings.  Partnerships between our colleges and businesses on internships and other work-related opportunities, as outlined above, are an essential part of this.  Another key part is the career advising and job placement services that students can access on campus and online.  As governor, Ed will work with our higher education institutions to become  “best in class” in providing these vital services to students.

TRANSPARENCY ON RESULTS AND RETURN.  Transparency is a popular word these days, and rightly so.  But for transparency to be more than a cliché, it must provide consumers with information that empowers them to make better choices.  For college students and their families, that means information about what it will cost to attend a particular institution and what they will have to show for it when study is complete—the results and the return on investment.

Ed’s plan for Results-Focused Funding will tie state funding for higher education more to the specific results promised and delivered by each individual institution.  The results emphasized in this funding approach generally are the same results that matter to Virginia students and families when making crucial choices about higher education.  This should include:

  • Expected enrollment rates of Virginians and corresponding admission standards.
  • The net cost to students, including full tuition and fee costs, financial aid eligibility, and the resulting student loan debt, for the full two- or four-year course of study.
  • Graduation rates and the pace of completion.
  • Job placement success and earnings of graduates, where possible by degree/credential program.
  • Internship and other work-experience opportunities, including “pipeline” programs and other partnerships with businesses that lead to employment opportunities.
  • Where applicable, the research and research translation activities of the institution and opportunities for student participation.

The full plan can be found HERE. Gillespie has released thirteen other major policy proposals including:

  • The “Cutting Taxes for ALL Virginians” Plan cuts individual income tax rates by ten percent across-the-board, putting nearly $1,300 more in the pocket of a family of four and creating more than 50,000 new full-time private sector jobs.
  • The “FAITH In Our Government for ALL Virginians” Plan will close loopholes and give Virginians a better opportunity to hold elected leaders accountable for their actions.
  • The “Efficiency + Effectiveness: A Government that Works for ALL Virginians” Plan will reorient government to more successfully address Virginia’s problems, demand evidence-based solutions, right-size our government to better steward taxpayer dollars, and incentivize our state government workforce to be more responsive to the needs of all Virginians.
  • The “Removing Barriers to Job Creation for ALL Virginians” Plan will bring meaningful reform to remove barriers to job creation, making it easier for businesses to grow and thrive in the Commonwealth. It focuses on standing up for Virginia’s job creators, reforming Virginia’s regulatory climate, reforming occupational licensing and streamlining business formation.
  • The Mental Health, Addiction, and Recovery Agenda will improve Virginia’s behavioral health system and address all facets of the opioid and heroin addiction crisis, including prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
  • The Veterans and Military Affairs Agenda will improve career opportunities for veterans, give veterans a greater voice in our government, support our military and their families, and care for our veterans and their families.
  • The “Job One: Keeping Virginia Safe” Plan will improve public safety in Virginia by eradicating gangs, reforming the system, and rewarding those who serve and protect.
  • The Agriculture and Forestry Agenda shows exactly how Gillespie will champion Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries, prioritizing efforts to expand exports and open new markets for Virginia products.
  • “An Excellent Education for ALL Virginians” Plan will strengthen Virginia’s education system, ensure that every child, in every community, has access to a high quality, safe and student-focused public education, and better align our workforce development system with the demands of the marketplace of today and the future.
  • The Six Point Sea Level Rise Action Plan will take proactive steps to enhance infrastructure, empower cities and regions to lead, flood proof our military installations and fight for more affordable flood insurance for Virginia families and businesses.
  • The Plan to Expand Access to High Speed Internet will remove regulatory barriers and finance broadband deployment to provide more reliable internet access to Virginians in every corner of the Commonwealth.
  • The “Outdoor Dominion” Initiative to make Virginia the outdoor recreation leader of the East Coast.
  • “The Energy to Power Families, Jobs and Investment” Plan to secure abundant energy resources and competitive energy prices that protect citizens from high energy costs, and attract the businesses that provide new jobs.

# # #