Virginia leaders differ on higher education spending cuts

There is no joy in Mudville when budget cuts become the focus of a legislative session.  As the General Assembly reaches the mid-point of the scheduled 60-day session, different approaches to how and where additional cuts should be made to the state budget carry significant implications for Virginia’s Community Colleges.

In announcing the commonwealth’s widening budget gap, Governor Tim Kaine proposed cutting higher education budgets after next year:

For the 2009-2010 biennium, the Governor is recommending continued percentage cuts to executive branch agencies at 2% for higher education and 3% for all other agencies.

House Appropriations Chairman, Del. Lacey Putney, in a statement released to the press, says the cuts should instead come from somewhere else in the budget:

[T]here are several strategies proposed by Governor Kaine that we will not adopt, such as additional cuts to higher education, which would merely result in greater tuition increases, hitting middle income Virginians particularly hard.

The eventual compromise that the House, Senate and Governor agree to will have a big impact on Virginia’s Community Colleges, which — according to SCHEV base adequacy calculations — are funded at the lowest level, along with Virginia Tech, among the commonwealth’s public colleges and universities. 

Meanwhile, Virginia’s Community Colleges are serving the vast majority of new college students in Virginia, absorbing 80% of the commonwealth’s enrollment growth.

UPDATE:  In a story in this morning’s Washington Post, high-ranking Republican lawmakers in the House continue to signal that they do not want to further cut the budgets of Virginia’s colleges and universities:

Money to the state’s 16 four-year schools and 23 community colleges was reduced last fall in the state’s first round of budget cuts.

“They took a pretty good hit back in October,” Del. Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News) said. “I would hope we could avoid another round to higher education.”

Hamilton, vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he worried that the colleges and universities would have to make up for the cuts by raising tuition and fees.

Posted by Jeff Kraus

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