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Va. higher ed council seeks additional $109M

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia on Monday approved budget recommendations that ask for an additional $109 million, in part to help pay for a 2 percent salary increase for faculty.

SCHEV unanimously approved its budget recommendations, which now go to the governor and the General Assembly for consideration.

Chairman Gil Bland thanked lawmakers for the $258 million investment in higher education that was approved last year. But he said additional funding was needed to help ease rising tuition costs and to keep Virginia's schools competitive in drawing both students and staff.

"While the Council acknowledges the Commonwealth's financial constraints, we believe that additional funding in the second year of the biennium will help mitigate tuition increase, encourage innovation, and improve institutional and student performance," Bland said in a release.

SCHEV recommended $71.5 million to provide more faculty and staff, instructional materials, improve retention and graduation and increase in-state enrollment. The 2 percent faculty salary increase would begin in July.

Another $27 million was requested to provide financial aid.

The General Assembly added $8.4 million for undergraduate student financial aid in the two-year budget approved last year, but SCHEV member Stephen Haner said tuition and fees continue to rise and put additional stress families who "haven't seen their own budgets recover." He said the council estimates the amount they would need to close the gap will rise more than 19 percent next year.

"These dollars keep young people in class with less debt," Haner added of the proposed financial aid increases.

The council also recommended $10.2 million for operation and maintenance of new buildings and $30.7 million in debt financing for a program used to upgrade equipment for instruction and research.

Gov. Bob McDonnell will present his proposed amendments to the two-year budget on Dec. 17. The General Assembly will consider those when it convenes in January.

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