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Grow By Degrees coalition releases 2013 policy agenda and higher education economic impact study

The Grow By Degrees coalition unveiled its 2013 policy agenda at Old Dominion University's Business Gateway Sept. 5. ODU President John R. Broderick joined coalition leaders and state legislators at the press conference, where the group advocated for further reform-based investments in Virginia's higher education system and released results of a new comprehensive study of higher education's impact on Virginia's economy.

VBHEC Chairman Heywood Fralin, who is also the chairman of Medical Facilities of America, Inc., led the presentation and was joined by former Landmark Communications CEO John O. "Dubby" Wynne. Members of the Virginia General Assembly also attended to express support, including the two majority leaders, Delegate Kirk Cox and Senator Tommy Norment, as well as Delegate Chris Jones of Suffolk.

The coalition released results of a new economic impact study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia. For every tax dollar the state invests in public higher education, the result is $17.40 in economic activity (Gross Domestic Product, or GDP) and $1.29 in new state tax revenues. Virginia's yearly investment in public higher education generates $28.4 billion in economic activity, accounts for 131,200 jobs, and returns $2.1 billion in state tax revenues. The study, which is available at at www.growbydegrees.org, estimates Old Dominion University's economic impact to be $2.1 billion.

In his remarks to the group, President Broderick referenced Old Dominion's leadership in the growth of the modeling and simulation industry, its graduation of the third largest number of STEM-H graduates in the state, and key research like solar energy as examples of how Virginia universities are indeed economic engines for the state.

Through a video featuring business and higher education leaders across Virginia, the coalition released its 2013 policy agenda, "College, Knowledge and Jobs." The coalition is urging elected officials and candidates for office in Virginia to embrace the agenda, which contains recommended initiatives related to job training, university-based research, leadership development, academic and career advising, and incentives for more degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and healthcare. The proposals also include measures to make college costs more affordable and predictable, especially for middle-income students who currently qualify for little financial aid and often incur excessive student loan debt.

Both major party candidates for governor endorsed the Grow By Degrees campaign and expressed enthusiasm for the "College, Knowledge and Jobs" agenda:

"I view higher education as an investment, not an expense. I support the Grow By Degrees campaign's effort to build sustained support for reform and investment in Virginia's community colleges and four-year institutions. I appreciate the business community's leadership and I look forward to working with the coalition on its policy priorities and the 2013 College, Knowledge and Jobs agenda." - Terry McAuliffe

"The link between higher education and Virginia's economy is direct and powerful, and the Grow By Degrees coalition has done a valuable service by shining a spotlight on that connection. The 'Top Jobs' initiative has combined reinvestment for universities and colleges with reform, stressing both employability and affordability for college students. We need to sustain that effort, and I look forward to working with the coalition on its 2013 agenda for advancing College, Knowledge and Jobs." - Ken Cuccinelli

Launched in 2009 by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC), the Grow By Degreescoalition is comprised of business and community leaders, economic development officials and organizations, college and university leaders, public officials and others who share the conviction that Virginia's economic future is fundamentally tied to higher education.

In 2009, nearing the end of a decade in which state budget actions cut higher education funding roughly in half on a per-student, constant-dollar basis, VBHEC launched the Grow By Degrees campaign to draw attention to the crucial role that higher education plays in preparing Virginians for top jobs in the 21stcentury economy and also in research, economic development and job creation throughout Virginia.


Embracing the Grow By Degrees policy agenda during the gubernatorial campaign, Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010 convened a bipartisan commission that crafted a blueprint for awarding 100,000 more college degrees by 2025, backed by sustained state-level reinvestment and reform throughout Virginia's higher education system.

The result was unanimous passage of landmark higher education legislation in 2011 known as the "Top Jobs Act." Accompanying the "Top Jobs" law were new state appropriations providing nearly $400 million to Virginia's colleges, universities and community colleges during 2011-14-funding that has begun to reverse the previous decade's deep cuts in per-student state support, enabled colleges and universities to enroll 14,000 additional undergraduate students since 2009, resulted in the lowest public university tuition increases in a decade, and increased the percentage of working-age Virginians with an associate or higher degree from 42 percent to 45 percent.

On September 18, the Virginia Business Higher Education Council and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce will co-host the Virginia Summit on Higher Education and Economic Competitiveness at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The summit's agenda includes addresses by gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe; a presentation on "Blueprint Virginia," the Chamber's comprehensive effort to provide business leadership, direction and long-range economic development planning for Virginia; panel discussions on workforce preparedness and reform and innovation in our community colleges, colleges and universities; remarks by Governor Bob McDonnell; and recognition of the Governor and legislative patrons of recent higher education legislation.