Matching Virginia Higher Education's Strengths with the Commonwealth's Needs
The Report of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Virginia (SJR 139)
II. Efficiency and Effectiveness
A. Balancing Teaching and Research
B. Faculty Tenure
C. Program Duplication
D. Academic Standards
E. Changing Learning Through Technology
F. The Role of Higher Education in Economic Development
III. Investing in Virginia's Colleges and Universities
A. Assessing Funding Support for Higher Education
B. Virginia's Community Colleges
IV. The Link Between Decentralization and Accountability
V. The Role of the Council of Higher Education
VI. Concluding Thoughts
For the past six years, our colleges and universities have gone through an unprecedented period of upheaval and financial insecurity. Six years ago it would have seemed inconceivable to predict that in fiscal year 1996:
--state support has fallen;
--tuition is at an all-time high; and,
--in this fiscal environment, our colleges and universities must absorb 50,000 more students by the year 2007.
To prepare for this large influx of students, we are asking our colleges and universities to restructure themselvesto find ways to teach more students with fewer resources, to streamline administrative operations, and to decide which activities should stay, and which should go.
It was in this context that I sponsored a resolution in 1994 to conduct a practical study of our colleges and universities, along with the role of the Council of Higher Education in coordinating these institutions. The study group was called the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Virginia, and what follows is the commission's report.
I had several objectives in mind when I drafted the resolution. First, I felt that the time was ripe to take stock of our higher education system, to educate ourselves as to the demands for higher education, and to assess what our institutions provide.
Second, I felt the need to explore the perceptions of the average citizen regarding higher education. Each of us has a set of anecdotes about higher education--the graduating students who don't fit the job market, or the faculty who don't teach. My intent was to get behind the newspaper stories and the anecdotes, to learn how our colleges and universities operate, to learn about the obstacles to change--some externally imposed, some internally imposed--and to develop a better appreciation of the important role our colleges and universities play in our Commonwealth.
I hoped to cure misconceptions and shatter myths, but, most importantly, I wanted to set a course, or mind-set, for the university community. When it comes to higher education, we need to make sure that the academic community and the policy makers share the same goals and the same ideas about how to go about achieving them.
This commission began its work in the spring of 1994 as the colleges and universities were completing their formal restructuring plans, and we completed our work in the fall of 1995, with the institutions well into the task of restructuring. Perhaps more than anything else, we have come away with the understanding that restructuring is a long-term venture, and that we have only just begun. We are also struck by the enormity of the higher education enterprise, and the frustration that we have only scratched the surface of the vast number of issues before us. In response, we chose to comment and make specific recommendations in selected areas that we feel should be strongly encouraged, or that have not been, in our view, adequately addressed.
Our commission was fortunate to have the work of the Commission on the University of the 21st Century as a foundation on which to begin our study. The 1989 report cited the need for change to deal with growing enrollments. We hope we have built upon the recommendations of that commission, and, more importantly, translated them into the environment in which we now live. The Virginia economy we face today is not the same one the Commission on the University of the 21st Century operated in when it began its deliberations in 1988. Nor is our higher education system the same as it was in 1988.
Indeed, I see the report on the University of the 21st Century as providing the vision. In contrast, the report of this commission may be more of a "how-to" manual.
A common thread throughout our report is the paramount importance of the institutions of higher education to the economic well-being and development of the Commonwealth. Through research, occupational-technical training, key programs such as engineering and bio-technology, and in so many other ways, our institutions are a major economic asset of the Commonwealthan asset that needs to be nurtured and supported.
John H. Chichester. Chairman
The 17-member Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Virginia met 10 times over the past 24 months. The commission heard testimony from the presidents of our colleges and universities, from the faculty, from high-ranking staff of our senior institutions, from national experts and from the Council of Higher Education, the Department of Economic Development and the Center for Innovative Technology. Our meetings also included a three-site interactive televised session in May of 1995.
Three members of the Senate and five members of the House of Delegates served on the commission, along with the Secretary of Education, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council of Higher Education, a member of the State Council, the Director of the State Council, and four citizens appointed by the Governor.
The commission arrived at five general conclusions:
Our public colleges and universities must make substantial changes to convince the general public that higher education is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The commission wholeheartedly supports the "restructuring" process already begun at the institutions, and implores the institutions to understand that the process has just started. Restructuring is not a fad. Restructuring has not "happened." While much already has been accomplished, restructuring actually has but begun, and progress by the institutions needs to be closely monitored for years to come.
As higher education changes the way it conducts its business, the Commonwealth should consider changing its business relationship with higher education.
The Council of Higher Education should develop a plan for consideration by the Governor and General Assembly that might grant selected institutions special independent status in state government.
Such a plan, which would provide specific proposals for assigning greater responsibility for daily operations and long-term development of colleges and universities, should be prepared in consultation with the leadership of the institutions of higher education, with the central state agencies, and with the cognizant committees of the General Assembly.
A post-audit administrative approach based on mutual public trust would seem to fit institutions that demonstrate that they have become more efficient and effective and have the resources to conduct their business with a high level of competency.
Such institutions should be freed from stifling bureaucratic regulations and should be given a status in the Code of Virginia that reflects their independence and their accountability.
Higher education in Virginia cannot be sustained at an acceptable level of quality without additional state support.
An estimated 50,000 additional students are expected to enroll by the year 2007. State support, along with productivity gains, must keep pace with enrollment growth if we are to avoid the unwanted and undesirable options of mediocre programs and ill-prepared graduates.
If the institutions fall behind in acquiring and exploiting technology as we enter the 21st century, then the institutions will lose their status as one of Virginia's brightest assets. Virginia's public colleges and universities should lead in technology, and that will require state support.
Students with financial need deserve access to higher education. While Virginia has done well in recent years through appropriations for the Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Act and for general need-based financial aid, we can and should do better.
The salary structure must be competitive to retain and attract quality faculty.
The role of Virginia's community colleges differs from that of the senior institutions, and the Commonwealth should consider ways to strengthen funding for the community colleges that reflect their varied missions and responsibilities.
And, as state support for public higher education grows, support for tuition assistance grants for Virginia students attending Virginia independent colleges and universities should grow proportionately.
Tuition as a percent of the cost of education has become too high for undergraduate Virginians.
Recent actions to reverse this trend should continue. Tuition increases for resident undergraduate students should not exceed cost of living increases, and the additional support higher education requires should come from the general fund.
Virginia higher education is closely linked with the economic growth of the Commonwealth.
Each institution of higher education has a role to play in promoting economic development in Virginia, and we should work to better define how each institution can best contribute, either to its region or to the state as a whole. State-wide efforts such as the Center for Innovative Technology must be encouraged and supported.
The rest of this report addresses these five general conclusions in greater detail. We have not attempted to provide a comprehensive picture of Virginia higher education or a detailed plan for its future. The Council of Higher Education, in consultation with the institutions, has responsibility for detailed planning and, in keeping with the autonomous nature of higher education, the Councilwith adequate budget and staff should be entrusted to discharge these responsibilities, as it has done so well over the years.
We have spoken to what we see to be the most pressing issues confronting Virginians as they consider the futures they want for their grandchildren. We hope that this report sparks conversations throughout the Commonwealth, for there is no subject that is more important than what we want succeeding generations to know and be able to do.
II. EFFICIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS
A strong consensus has emerged across the nation that America's colleges and universities have got to change both what they do and how they do it in order to serve us well in new social and economic circumstances. Virginia appears to be among the pace-setting states in undertaking change through its restructuring efforts, and we commend those responsible for higher education for the way in which they have approached this task.
Nevertheless, there are concerns about the operation of our institutions of higher education. These concerns include the high cost of college-going in Virginia, the loss of proper balance between the teaching and research activities of faculty, the role of faculty tenure in a world that requires high levels of institutional flexibility, apparently unnecessary duplication among institutions that may have spread their resources too thinly, possible erosion of academic standards, and the need for a more explicit link between learning and work.
For the past two years, members of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Virginia have had the unique and welcome opportunity to examine these and other issues regarding higher education in Virginia. We have met several talented and dedicated professionals who shared their perspectives about the challenges that need to be addressed as the 21st century approaches. We have also learned much about the work that takes place in our institutions of higher learning, as well as the funding and organizational mechanisms that support teaching and research.
We have come to expect a lot from Virginia higher education and to take it as our due. The restructuring in which we are engaged should be particularly ambitious because most of our colleges and universities range from "good" to "superior" among their peers nationally.
A. Balancing Teaching and Research
Both teaching and research are important roles of our colleges and universities. This is not a matter of choosing one or the other. In fact, they come together if we think about the college or university as a "place intentionally designed for learning to occur." Students learn, often with teachers as their guides. Faculty learn, often from the research they do in their fields of specialty.
A balance is needed between these two important activities. Each institution should spell out, as precisely as possible, the extent to which its faculty is committed to teaching and to research. Then the key decisions that determine the careers of faculty retention, promotion, tenure, salary increases, sabbatical leaves should be determined on the basis of the balance that has been established.
Because of the variety of colleges and universities in our system, the balance between teaching and research does, and should, differ across institutions. At major research universities, research will occupy more faculty time while at community colleges it will occupy very little. But teaching should be important everywhere and every institution should administer its systems of incentives in a way that is consistent with the balance it has stated for itself.
The women and men who are faculty go through stages of their professional lives, as we all do. There may be periods when interaction with undergraduate students is extremely rewarding, others when being part of a research team is fulfilling, and still others when administration is the right kind of work. We urge institutions to avoid "one-size-fits-all" faculty job descriptions and to create reward systems that set performance objectives for groups of faculty (an entire department or institute, for instance), thereby allowing individuals to contribute differently to the group effort.
Of this much we are sure: the citizens of Virginia want to know that they and their children have access to the best faculty available. They want to know that, except in rare instances, faculty teach. They will not support institutions in which the teaching is done by graduate students or part-timers while the full-time faculty is off doing something else.
For this reason, we think it is important for the colleges and universities to meet the increased productivity goals they set in their restructuring plans. With only a few exceptions, all are adequately staffed to handle current enrollments; several can handle limited increases in enrollment without adding staff. The restructuring efforts will increase faculty teaching productivity in various ways: faculty teaching more courses, using technology to reach greater numbers of students, and moving away from traditional classroom formats to encourage students to learn independently and with other students.
Teaching ought to be front and center in every institution's mission and faculty ought to be rewarded to a greater degree for the attention they give to students and to student learning. We put it this way because, in the final analysis, we are interested in what students learn what kinds of people they have become, and what they know and are able to do as a result of attending our colleges and universities.
It is not easy to measure the results of education but some Virginia universities have indicated that their restructuring will attempt to account for the learning that occurs. For example, George Mason University may look at a portfolio of a student's work to evaluate learning. Other institutions are developing courses that rely more on self-paced, individual research and only a fraction of the traditional lecture format. We strongly encourage these efforts both because they are right and because they can help us define a key dimension of faculty productivity more meaningfully: by what students learn rather than by how many hours faculty teach.
B. Faculty Tenure
The general public, with corporate executives among the more outspoken, are asking pointed questions about the meaning of tenure as we approach the new world of the 21st century. Many commission members, especially those of us who are not academics, admit to an intuitive, almost visceral, reaction against that aspect of tenure that appears to guarantee lifetime employment.
Academic freedom is not at question. It is universally accepted that faculty scholars must have the freedom to follow their inquiries wherever they may lead, regardless of whether their work is popular or in accord with conventional notions of truth. And, faculty must be assured of their freedom of speech to share their scholarship. Tenure has historically protected this freedom of inquiry, although a strong body of case law and other legal protections also now exist.
The value of the faculty in general and the high esteem with which we hold the faculty as a body are, likewise, not at question. We cherish the faculty. The faculty are higher education.
However, for the general public and corporate executives, tenure is about an entrenched system that is perceived to place a much higher premium on research than on teaching, that causes the institution to be inflexible rather than flexible, and that appears to ensure employment regardless of performance. As higher education attempts to keep pace with the rest of society and restructure itself to meet today's requirements, these aspects of tenure do not fit.
It is essential at the outset of the discussion to recognize that tenure is not a parochial issue for Virginia. Tenure is a national system. Virginia's colleges and universities are part of a vast network of more than 3,000 institutions of higher education in the United States. It is not practical nor advantageous for Virginia to consider the abolition of tenure for faculty at its public colleges and universities. The consequence would be the decline of those institutions who compete for faculty in a national and international marketplace. While we might not lose the most outstanding faculty who are at our colleges and universities, our efforts to hire the best of the next generation of scholars could be damaged. (We note that this is not as much an issue for the community colleges because they do not have a tenure system in place on their campuses, their market for faculty recruitment tends to be local rather than national, and because community college faculty generally do not build national reputations on the basis of their research or scholarship.)
The institutions, with their boards of visitors taking the lead, should establish and maintain a clear balance between teaching and scholarship in tenure decisions. The scales now tip too heavily toward scholarship. Both are important, but balance is essential. The general public sees little value in a tenured faculty member renowned in his field who is not interested in passing on the products of his scholarship to students. Tenure based almost entirely on publish or perish encourages the production of such faculty. The tenure-track agreement need not, in each and every case, require that scholarly works be published. Tenure should not be denied to those faculty members who have chosen, and so demonstrated, that they wish to be excellent teachers but not necessarily published scholars, as well.
The faculty member is expected to divide his loyalties between his discipline on the one hand, and his institution and his students, his community and his state on the other hand. The responsibility of faculty scholars is to create new knowledge and to help the next generation of students become thoughtful, independent citizens. Ideally, all faculty involved in research have the skills to incorporate their findings and scholarship into the classroom. In our view, knowledge is not advanced if it does not reach the student.
Beginning with guidance from the boards of visitors, our colleges and universities must become more business-like about tenure. There should be institution-wide policies and general criteria for the application of tenure-track agreements with faculty. The tenured faculty member is a highly valued resource for the entire university and its student body, for the community and the state; tenure-track decisions should not be left solely to the department where the faculty member belongs.
And, the board of visitors and administration must not feel under siege by organizations or traditions that stifle flexibility in the use of faculty resources as the board considers which programs to scale back or discontinue and which programs to accelerate or initiate. Ways must be found, perhaps through retraining or through inter-collegiate cooperation, to facilitate faculty mobility to accommodate changes in demand and direction of the curriculum.
The rapid pace of change in technologically advanced economies means that the activities of any institution must change radically, possibly several times, during the lifetime of any professional person. Those who remain flexible not only can adjust to change but also can shape it creatively and remain useful to the institution.
Which brings us to the lifetime job aspect of tenure. If a job is not being done satisfactorily, the incumbent must be replaced. This is why we have emphasized the importance of rigorous post-tenure performance review in this report, and why we commend the Council of Higher Education for doing so in its review of restructuring progress.
The development of post-tenure review policies and procedures is an important factor in effectively addressing the concerns raised about tenure. The faculty of the colleges and universities, working with the administration of those institutions, must take the responsibility to develop and support a process for regular evaluation of tenured faculty that leads to continuous improvement in their teaching, research, and service, or results in negative actions such as dismissal.
Each board of visitors should require the development of a process for regular evaluation of tenured faculty that leads to continuous improvement in their teaching, research, and service, and that makes clear that sanctions for unsatisfactory performance include reduction in salary and dismissal.
The evaluations should be conducted according to a reasonable, periodic schedule that fits each institution. Standards of performance should, at a minimum, relate to each of the faculty member's responsibilities. Peer review is but part of the story. Contributions to the ability of the institution to serve its constituencies must receive at least equal weight.
An effective post-tenure review policy should exhibit the following characteristics. It should be the product of a joint effort by the faculty and administration, integrated with the regular faculty evaluation policy; it should be developmental in nature so that a tenured faculty member who is not performing at the desired level has the opportunity to develop goals and a plan to meet the expectations together with the administration; and it should include a timetable to achieve the mutually agreed-upon goals. The review should be systematic and uniformly applied, provide for due process, and be connected to the existing means available to faculty to redress grievances.
However, the implementation of a post-tenure review policy by itself is not sufficient to address the larger issue of how to recruit and retain a quality faculty. The other elements that need to be included are an effective faculty recruitment process that includes careful screening criteria for all tenure track positions, real evaluation about reappointment during the probationary period, a systematic and in-depth pre-tenure review process, the availability of faculty development opportunities for growth and remediation, and a readiness for faculty peers to take the responsibility to make hard decisions about the reappointment and tenure recommendations of their colleagues who are not achieving expectations in teaching, research, and service.
The commission recommends that each state-supported college and university be directed to adopt and include in its restructuring plan institution-wide policies and programs for both the determination of tenure and for post-tenure performance review. Such policies and programs should begin no later than July 1, 1997, and should include the requirement for a written agreement between the institution administration and each faculty member regarding the duties and responsibilities of each faculty member. The Council of Higher Education should submit a report to the 1997 General Assembly detailing the progress each institution is making toward the development of these policies and programs.
In summary, if tenure systems are to remain viable in higher education, tenure should be awarded for reasons that make sense to the general public. And tenure, once achieved, must be followed by performance reviews that have real and substantial consequences.
C. Program Duplication
There are legitimate reasons for academic programs to be duplicated from institution to institution. Perhaps the best reason for dispersing programs across several institutions rather than concentrating them in one place is that it permits Virginia to maintain relatively small universities. There are universities in other states with 50,000 students or more. As difficult as it is to focus attention on teaching and ensure that students receive personal attention, the mega-university only makes it more difficult. Prudent dispersal of programs is desirable in a system like Virginia's.
For example, it can reasonably be expected that all colleges offering a liberal arts education will have an English major. However, specialty programs, or those not part of a core group of programs within liberal arts, should be duplicated only for compelling reasons. Such programs might include engineering, physics, medicine, or law. Programs duplicative of others currently available elsewhere in the state should be carefully reviewed for possible elimination. When programs must be duplicated in order to meet local or regional need, or because of external pressures, institutions should consider ways in which funding for them can be reduced or shifted to non-state sources.
Programs may offer specific services to regions. They may serve place-bound adults, who represent an increasing proportion of college students. For instance, when a doctoral program in nursing was proposed for northern Virginia, initially it seemed that it might unnecessarily duplicate other such offerings in the state. The program was directed at working nurses, however, who were unlikely to be able to drive to Richmond or Charlottesville for evening classes. The program is now being offered with healthy enrollments, and the nursing programs at the other institutions have not suffered.
Employer needs also may be local. When a law school was proposed for northern Virginia, the members of that community found the presence of law schools elsewhere in the state irrelevant to their concerns. A similar argument has been made on behalf of the engineering program at Virginia Commonwealth University, in which the Richmond business community and a major corporation moving to the area are greatly interested.
External factors can influence the need to develop what would otherwise be seen as unnecessarily duplicative programs. Pressures from industry and trade, for instance, have driven some programmatic development, from dental hygiene at various community colleges to the two-year agriculture degree program at Virginia Tech.
Federal funding sometimes creates windows of opportunity. The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF), a world class research site in physics, has drawn top physicists to the state and spurred the development of graduate programs in physics that might not otherwise have been considered. Several of our institutions, including Christopher Newport University, the College of William and Mary and Old Dominion University, are working closely with CEBAF.
Finally, legislative or gubernatorial interest lies behind the development of some academic offerings. Governor Dalton supported the development of the veterinary college at Virginia Tech, for instance.
The Council of Higher Education has statutory authority to approve new programs and eliminate nonproductive programs. For an institution to gain approval for a program, it must demonstrate that there will be sufficient student demand for it at that institution and employer demand for its graduates. Institutions offer various kinds of evidence for student demand: a concentration in the subject or a degree program at another level may have healthy enrollments, the institution may have surveyed its students and service region to determine the level of interest in the potential program, or programs at other institutions may have more students than they can handle.
But student demand, while it may be used to justify program duplication, must be considered in the context of program cost. Higher education is a highly subsidized "marketplace:" if students were expected to pay the full cost, or even close to the full cost, of a degree program, demand might be significantly reduced.
One way to reduce costs while offering programs where there is demand for them is through cooperative programming. The Council has encouraged cooperative development of off-campus instructional sites, for example, resulting in joint centers involving from two to five institutions in Abingdon, Roanoke, northern Virginia, Virginia Beach, and on the Peninsula. Telecom-municated instruction also has created opportunities for cooperation, for example:
--Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, and George Mason University together offer the televised graduate engineering program; and
--Through Teletechnet, Old Dominion University and the community colleges offer associate-degree holders the opportunity to complete their baccalaureate degrees on community college campuses.
More established programs can also help new ones start, thus decreasing development and start-up costs. Virginia Tech is providing substantial assistance to VCU with its engineering program, for instance. CEBAF and the Council of Higher Education this summer called together the physics programs in the state and initiated a discussion of how they might strengthen one another so that Virginia can develop world class instructional and research programs to go with CEBAF's world class research facilities.
As mentioned above, the Council has statutory authority to approve new programs and to require the discontinuance of non-productive programs. The Code of Virginia (Section 23-9.6:1) provides three criteria for non-productivity: "the number of degrees granted, the number of students served by the program, and budgetary considerations."
Since 1974, the Council has monitored all the programs in the state to determine if they were above a certain threshold number, which varies by degree level, majors enrolled, degrees conferred, and students enrolled in upper division classes from other majors. Programs that did not meet at least one of the criteria were reviewed.
Some programs under review were "continued under close scrutiny" in spite of low enrollments for various reasons. The programs may be central to the curriculum: While the Council has eliminated chemistry, history, and German majors in the past, it is reluctant to terminate all the science programs or all languages and literature majors at any individual institution.
Institutional size is sometimes a factor. By the numbers, Eastern Shore Community College is so small that it could only support one major, and the physics program at Virginia Military Institute, which it considers central to its mission, would have to close, even though a respectable percentage of VMI students major in physics.
Some programs are vital to employers but of little interest to students, such as medical technology programs; if these can be offered economically or if employers are willing to subsidize them, the Council has been inclined to let them continue.
Over the years, the Council's productivity actions have reduced the total numbers of degree programs in Virginia. In 1993, Virginia had 103 fewer degree programs than it did in 1976. Nevertheless, in its recent report on the Council, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) concluded that the Council's performance in the review of program productivity was unsatisfactory. JLARC noted that as of March 1994, 69 of the 99 programs "under close scrutiny" for 1987-1994 were still offered without significant alteration.
JLARC suggested that the Council raise and broaden its productivity standards and include considerations of program quality. In response, the Council of Higher Education has created a new procedure for productivity review. Institutions are categorizing their programs as "weak" or "strong," and as "essential" or "peripheral" to their missions. Programs that fail to graduate sufficient numbers of students will be subject to detailed review of other quantitative measures and of their quality.
In addition, the Council, the institutions, and the staff of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility will begin a comprehensive review of all undergraduate and graduate physics programs early in 1996. This review is intended to serve as a pilot for other system-wide reviews of various disciplines.
Most programs that are closed will be small, and closing them alone cannot yield the productivity gains needed to keep an institution's best and most central programs healthy in lean times. The restructuring plans just submitted by Virginia's colleges and universities suggest that institutions are beginning to terminate some larger programs that, for reasons of student or employer interest, quality, cost, or centrality to the institution's mission, should no longer be offered. Through restructuring, institutions to date have closed or slated for closure 49 programs, and they are reviewing others. In the future, both program approval and productivity review should be subsumed into the on-going restructuring processes of the institutions.
We recognize the validity of the arguments we have heard about the necessity of some duplication. And we acknowledge the Council's efforts to keep programs from proliferating. But still, we are concerned.
There are numerous examples of institutional "creep": the process by which institutions strive to achieve the next highest rung on some ladder of prestige. Over the last ten years, three of our doctoral institutions moved up from comprehensive institutions. Three of our six doctoral institutions are now in the top tier of research institutions. Several of our comprehensive institutions have begun to offer masters and even doctoral-level programs.
So there has been movement, which appears to provide a diverse research base across the state. But we think that Virginia should not have seven, eight, or nine doctoral degree-granting universities. There are three comprehensive institutions that aspire to that status. From this point forward, there should be close scrutiny applied to new doctoral programs requested anywhere but in the six doctoral degree-granting institutions.
Even this does not go far enough. Doctoral programs are of various types and fit various markets. It is arguable, for instance, that doctorates in nursing should be close to population centers so that place-bound professionals can pursue advanced degrees. But doctorates in English, Experimental Psychology, or Religious Studies are part of national markets, and we ought to look at whether our programs contribute to an unnecessary glut of PhDs seeking work in industry and higher education.
It is not only possible but probable that certain traditional doctoral programs offered by the six doctoral-level institutions enroll too many students. It also is possible that some should be discontinued.
Advanced graduate students add to the prestige both of universities and of the faculty who supervise their research. In the sciences, particularly, they are relatively inexpensive instructors and laboratory assistants: Whether the market needs more newly minted PhDs or not, often a successful faculty member's large research program cannot operate without numerous graduate students to do the work.
We recognize the value of research in American universities. We also recognize that the faculty member with a successful program of funded research usually pays the stipends of graduate students from his or her grant funds. But these enrollments are not without cost to the Commonwealth's taxpayers as well. We call for the Council to study what it actually costs to run advanced graduate programs, and to present to the General Assembly its recommendations for change.
With regard to the existing programs and activities of Virginia's colleges and universities, we find it easier to condemn duplication than to remove it in a way that really saves money. The things that might be eliminated or combined for significant savings are those that enjoy wide support, not the standard bachelor's degree majors in history, geography, or business.
Experts advise us that closing an undergraduate program in history or geography just means that the students will come to college and major in something else. Closing the more costly or specialized programs means real savings. But each has political support that probably is stronger than the impulse to efficiency and cost reduction.
We want to acknowledge in this discussion of duplication the special role of Norfolk State and Virginia State universities within Virginia higher education. These universities have distinguished histories of service to African-American citizens and many others who have sought advanced education. Their future role in graduate education should be acknowledged as Virginia and other states seek to increase the pools of potential employees with specialized skills and training.
But even here we do not find justification for program duplication. While we applaud, for instance, Norfolk State's progress in developing its program in chemical physics, we think that the future of doctoral programs in this and other sciences lies in cooperation with Old Dominion University. The two universities can work together while Norfolk State builds science strength, eventually becoming partners in joint degree programs. In the same way, Virginia State and Virginia Commonwealth universities can cooperate to build strong graduate programs that take advantage of Virginia State's experience in dealing with educationally disadvantaged persons.
Now that the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) is operational, our academic physicists have organized themselves across institutional lines to share teaching, dissertation advising, and research projects. Their goal is to work with the staff of CEBAF to provide a critical mass of physicists who can keep CEBAF research on the cutting edge of physics. Given CEBAF's interest in industrial applications, we are encouraged that the faculty of the state's physics doctoral programs are cooperating to make their programs and CEBAF's research capacities as productive as possible. We recommend that the Council of Higher Education develop plans for cooperation in graduate education involving these institutions and others in Virginia as appropriate.
Further, should some institutions be slow to react to negative reviews, the commission encourages the Council of Higher Education to take unilateral action to close programs. While the Council in many cases has been able to talk institutions into closing programs, the Council and the institutions need to know that the public expects determined actions, and that decision-makers in state government will support such determined actions when the case for closing a program clearly has been made.
D. Academic Standards
Perhaps no question is more debated among academics and those who care about higher education than whether our colleges and universities still hew to standards as high as those they held several decades ago. We see two sides of the issue: the level of preparedness of the incoming student, and what the student gains from his or her years on campus.
We see conflicting evidence about whether academic standards have moved up or down. We have seen some troubling evidence that students are not well-prepared for college: twenty-six percent of Virginia's public high school graduates attending college in 1993-94 required remediation in at least one subject area. That's 6,226 young adults who had to be taught high school math, English or writing on our college campuses. Some school divisions had as many as 75 percent of their high school graduates requiring remediation once they got to college.
Again, we see two sides to the issue. Are the students less prepared, or are our colleges and universities accepting more students who are unprepared for college? To answer these questions, we look to the data we have on college exam test-takers, and data on admissions and acceptances.
From these data, we know that total SAT scores are up slightly, from 893 in 1992, to 896 in 1995. But, while this change is encouraging, small increases or decreases in average test scores are not significant. What is important is that more Virginians than ever before are taking the SAT's (65 percent of high school graduates), and the average test scores have not changed significantly over the last 15 years. This means that a broad range of students is performing fairly well. In addition, more high school graduates than ever before (70 percent) are pursuing some form of post-secondary education.
As more students have come to Virginia higher education, the institutions that were always selective have become more so. Other institutions, having more students from which to choose, have also become selective. Across the Commonwealth, the trend of the last 20 years is for Virginia's system of higher education to increase selectivity. But when high school enrollments have gone down, the colleges and universities have dipped deeper into admissions' applicant pools.
These facts are encouraging as we examine standards, but we are still concerned about the need for remediation, and who should provide that service. We acknowledge that the community colleges should be the primary vehicle for delivering remediation, or for providing basic courses for those students who did not follow a college preparatory track. Four-year institutions should have only limited remediation efforts that are extremely narrow and focused. And, we expect our colleges and universities and local school divisions to work closely to provide the kind of information that both need to improve student performance
Finally, we know that we do not know enough. No enterprise as large as Virginia higher educationa $3.5 billion annual investment by taxpayers, tuition-payers, and others should be vague about its results. All of us who have a stake in Virginia higher education need better information about what we actually get for our money:
--what do students know and what can they do when they leave college?
--what kinds of learning experiences do students get for their money?
--do alumni (one group of customers) think their investment in higher education was worthwhile?
--Do employers (another group) think the alumni they hire are adequately skilled and knowledgeable?
--what businesses were helped, saved, or attracted to Virginia by the efforts of colleges and universities?
--what did it cost Virginia taxpayers to do research supported by the federal government and industry?
--what are the verifiable benefits to Virginia of the research that is done?
The educational functions of colleges and universities instruction, research, and serviceare not very precise. They cannot be measured the way one can measure tolerances in a machine shop or failure rates in a microchip manufacturing plant. Often the most exciting results of education are the most unexpectedthe student who is inspired to go beyond her teacher; the plugger who persists despite huge obstacles and finally makes it; the scholar who creates something, be it literature or technology, that helps us to live better lives.
We recognize that much of the value added by higher education is intangible. At the same time, we want increased accountability for the results produced with the money we invest. The two are compatible if higher education is treated with care and respect, and we encourage our colleagues and others to support both.
We recommend that the Council of Higher Education be encouraged to continue and extend its "Indicators of Institutional Mission" project to include information about the kinds of questions we have asked. We also feel it is important that each institution provide the same objective, comparable information in order for this data to be used for decision making. We further recommend that the Council work with the colleges and universities, the Southern Regional Education Board, and national testing organizations, as appropriate, to identify standardized examinations that would help to determine what students learn as a result of their undergraduate studies.
E. Changing Learning Through Technology
By now it has become commonplace to write about how our lives are changing under the influence of advanced electronic technology. It's here to stay and it has become a major influence on colleges and universities everywhere. They teach its use, they use it to teach and do research, and they use it to provide the administrative support services that keep the institutions open for business.
Advanced communications and computing technology, in short, is a major part of both the form and the content of higher education as we know it today. For succeeding generations it will be the same, only more so. Technology has transformed the higher education experience. We need to encourage and support new applications to even further transform higher education.
One of the objectives of this commission was to identify areas that can be fostered to facilitate the restructuring process. Restructuring , as viewed by this commission, means rethinking and re-evaluating every facet of the academic experience. Restructuring is not simply a means to cut costs and teach more students, but a way to radically rethink how we go about providing higher education in Virginia. Nowhere do we see more opportunities to depart from the old ways and attempt new approaches than in the area of technology. We believe that technology has much to offer in three areas of concern: improving instruction, providing access, and avoiding unnecessary duplication.
Examples of instructional technology viewed by the commission demonstrate that the learning experience can be significantly changed, and hopefully improved, through the use of technology. Are we supporting the development of these new approaches? Can new technologies supplant traditional teaching methods, and the credit-hours-equals-competency model of assessing learning?
Fortunately, several good examples of technology exist at our colleges and universities. One of the most exciting places to be on a college campus is in the classroom where the teacher has integrated technology into the curriculum. Applications using CD-ROM technology allow a poet s voice to come to life in a literature class. Computerized models let students test the properties of ceramics in engineering programs. Future physicians practice their diagnostic skills using programmed patients .
We should encourage similar examples of true integration of technology into the curriculum. By this we don t mean simply using a personal computer for homework, or displaying computer-generated slides on a screen, but applications where the medium of technology brings a new dimension to the course.
We must encourage and support the institution to develop new and better ways of using technology in teaching and learning. Technology has great promise to vastly increase productivity in instruction, gradually but dramatically, over a period of a few years. This initiative requires the development of additional software to accomplish this. To truly capitalize on the potential of technology, we need to realize that new technologies allow us to design applications that provide sights, sounds, interactivity, and feedback that could not be made available before.
To achieve this objective, we cannot ignore that we need to teach teachers how to use the technology and how they can incorporate it into the curriculum. A recently released report on technology in the classroom cautions that technology cannot just be dumped into schoolsteachers must learn new ways to teach and assess students' progress
A good example of teaching the teacher exists at Virginia Tech. Over a four-year period, all faculty will have the opportunity to participate in an intensive workshop centered on the integration of instruction technology into the curriculum.
We don t see technology as replacing the instructor, but rather as supplementing his or her role. It is encouraging to hear that students and faculty communicate more freely through electronic mail, at all times of the day, in a way that regular office hours could never accommodate.
We also hear positive reactions from students about courses using technology. An assessment of instructional technology applications at Virginia Tech reports that, in general, students believe they are being provided more opportunities to develop skills, including problem-solving and critical thinking. It is such skills as these that will prepare Virginia's students to compete in a global marketplace. We want to see this kind of assessment documented so that we can evaluate the effectiveness of technology in the classroom, and to target where more resources should go.
New instructional technologies which extend the reach of the faculty should be promoted as a means to increasing productivity, and providing educational opportunities to time- and place-bound students. A key factor in improving access will be a communications infrastructure that can link each college and university, community college, and, ideally, public schools and business. The Commonwealth should encourage the development of a network to support the concept of a statewide virtual campus that can deliver instruction to individuals or organizations, free from the constraints of distance and time.
Again, Virginia has exciting examples of such technology in place that can serve as models for similar ventures. Old Dominion University's Teletechnet is a state-of-the art digital network designed to deliver baccalaureate programs from Old Dominion in partnership with the Virginia Community College System. Participating community colleges offer the first two years of degree programs, and Old Dominion provides courses via Teletechnet for the last two years at the community colleges. By the year 1998, at least 30 community college sites will be developed, 20 degree programs will be offered, and 400 courses delivered.
Not only will Teletechnet serve those students unable to leave their residence to attend a four-year college, the network will also help stimulate economic development in areas of the state where there is a shortage of highly trained employees in critical occupations such as engineering and nursing.
Bringing a complex delivery system like Teletechnet into being requires Old Dominion University and the Commonwealth to weigh several factors. For one thing, we want to be careful that the system does not deliver programs that compete directly with programs already offered by local institutions, be they state-supported or independent. But at the same time, we must recognize that technology based delivery systems incur substantial start-up and operating costs, and have to generate a high volume of enrollments in order to be cost-effective. Popular professional programs like nursing and business of necessity must be part of what Teletechnet delivers in order for it to realize its potential.
The services offered by colleges and universities, including efforts like Teletechnet, are subject to the economics of the marketplace. We urge the state-supported and independent institutions to work out arrangements for program delivery that are as constructive and cost-effective as possible. The Council of Higher Education should continue its efforts to promote cooperation as the technological transformation of higher education accelerates.
As Virginia moves to link higher education, the Commonwealth should adopt a policy of buy, rather than build when it comes to technology infrastructure. Changes in technology, coupled with changes in the telecommunications regulatory environment, have spawned an array of private-sector firms ready to provide products and networks to higher education. While the Commonwealth could conceivably save funds in the short term by constructing its own telecommunications infrastructure (as some states have done), these savings may be lost by investing in a technology that could soon become obsolete. Therefore, Virginia s colleges and universities should be encouraged to buy telecommunications services, rather than to build the infrastructure themselves.
We will reach a point when everyone can have the most advanced form of communications and computing technology available to them. But because we aren't there yet, our obligation is to ensure that everyone in Virginia's colleges and universities has access to that technology, that having or not having a personal computer does not divide students or institutions into haves and have-nots .
We propose these strategies to deal with the needs for advanced technology in our colleges and universities.
The institutions should be encouraged to establish communications infrastructure, both within institutions and among them. Working with the Council of Information Management, the Council of Hgher Education should ensure that the networks built are all compatible.
Institutions should also be encouraged to develop cooperative programs that incorporate distance learning technology to eliminate unnecessary duplication of high-cost programs.
Faculty should be trained in ways to integrate technology into the curriculum. Institutions should share resources and expertise to train faculty, and charge for the service.
The institutions should encourage students to purchase their own computers, but they should maintain a pool of computers for students who do not do so. They should tell all entering students exactly what capacities their personal computers will require in order to give them access to the institution s network.
Finally, the Council should modify its formula for determining eligibility for student financial aid to include the cost of a personal computer as a higher education expense, when it is required by the instituion.
We also recommend the creation of a committee to study what methods have been developed and could be developed to enhance teaching and learning through the use of technology. The study should focus only on the development of new software and redesigned curricula that will usher in a new age in instruction, and has the potential to vastly increase the productivity of our faculty. The study committee should not only review existing and proposed learning venues, but determine costs of implementing a phased approach, and suggest ways that private technology companies may be enticed to develop the necessary programs as a commercial enterprise.
F. The Role of Higher Education in Economic Development
Virginia's community colleges and senior institutions support Virginia's economy and its growth in a variety of ways. For example, in today's information-based economy, an individual s lifetime earning power increases with educational attainment. According to the Southern Regional Education Board, the monthly earnings of a community college graduate are one-and-one-half times that of a high school graduate. A four-year college graduate earns nearly twice as much as a high school graduate. Increased earnings mean a higher standard of living for the worker and his or her family, as well as increased tax revenues for the community and the Commonwealth. Higher education provides access to an improved quality of life in Virginia.
With increasing frequency, institutions are serving as information and resource brokers for business and economic development professionals in the state. Through such efforts as collaborative applied research with business and industry, the delivery of industrial training and retraining, the operation of small business development centers, and participation in various economic development partnerships, the institutions contribute significantly to regional economic development efforts. Higher education has frequently been cited by business and industry leaders as a major factor influencing business location decisions.
While higher education has begun to venture in the economic development arena and has demonstrated some significant successes, institutional efforts to date have not been comprehensive or coordinated and many businesses still feel that they do not know where to turn when they need assistance. In response, the presidents of Virginia's public colleges and universities in May of 1995 developed a plan of action to strengthen higher education s capacity to support economic development.
The basic elements of the plan call for each institution to name a director of economic advancement to coordinate institutional support of economic development. Each institution should establish or join forces with a regional round table of business leaders to identify regional focal industry, identify essential educational support, and report on regional higher education actions required to support economic development. Ultimately, the directors of economic advancement and representatives of regional focal industries are to develop a comprehensive plan for Virginia's higher education support of economic development based on findings of reports. The plan would be included in Opportunity Virginia, the statewide economic development initiative.
The commission endorses these efforts and asks that the institutions place a high priority on activities in this arena. Institutions must work with each other, with business and industry, and with other economic development organizations to ensure that the needs of business and industry are clearly identified, that services and resources are in place to address these needs, that the availability of services is clearly communicated to business and industry, and that duplicative and unnecessarily competitive efforts are avoided. We also recommend continued support for the state-wide efforts of the Center for Innovative Technology to identify high-tech or other industries which can be promoted in Virginia.
III. Investing in Virginia's Colleges and Universities
A. Assessing Funding Support for Higher Education
Mr. Sidney O. Dewberry, a member of this commission, presented to the commission a thoughtful analysis of the higher education funding situation in Virginia. In doing so, he was ably assisted by Dr. Ernest M. Jennelle, whom the commission also thanks for his contribution. This chapter will not repeat the excellent work done by Mr. Dewberry and Dr. Jennelle.
But several points in the Dewberry-Jennelle analysis should be emphasized. The first among these is that the process known as "restructuring" should continue and even intensify within Virginia's colleges and universities. Clearly, Virginia has entered a period in which state government can no longer provide services in the same ways it has provided them. This is as true of higher education as it is of transportation, public schools, health care, and other social programs.
Our colleges and universities face enormous challenges. They must prepare to teach more students; they must prepare to teach them differently and to teach them skills and knowledge that will help them contribute to a technologically sophisticated economy; and they must find ways to contain the per-student cost of instruction. This is what "restructuring" is all about. The institutions' initial plans and efforts are impressive, and we commend them for facing up to the challenges. But the work is not finished and many tough decisions and difficult changes lie ahead.
Second, support for higher education is an investment in the future. It is an investment in the capacities of Virginia taxpayers and their families to contribute to economic growth. Economic development has been described as a "contact sport." One of the fundamental contacts is between a skilled workforce and an industry looking to grow or relocate. The Motorola, IBM-Toshiba, and Gateway relocations announced during 1995 are evidence of three corporations' faith that Virginia can educate men and women who will do sophisticated work. This commission believes that current levels of state support, if continued, soon will diminish our institutions' capacity to deliver, and will damage the reputation of Virginia higher education for years to come.
Third, the increase in spending per student by Virginia's colleges and universities has, on average, been almost exactly the same as the increase in inflation (sometimes called the "CPI," or "consumer-price index"). This kind of increase is reasonable because institutions are buying supplies and equipment in the national economy and trying to give almost 30,000 employees salary increases so their purchasing power does not diminish. Further, for the community colleges, purchasing power actually has diminished. With a curriculum focused heavily on occupational-technical programs, reduced spending power significantly hinders the community colleges from maintaining the technology, equipment and specialized full-time faculty required to train and retrain a highly skilled work force to meet the changing needs of the workplace.
But students and their families, who are the consumers of higher education and also the taxpayers of Virginia, have picked up an increasing share of this higher education spending. Tuition and fee charges have replaced lost state support. For 20 years, from 1969 to 1989, average undergraduate tuition and fees for Virginians was about 13.5 percent of average per capita income. Since 1989, it has risen to 17.3 percent, good evidence that most Virginians may be finding it more difficult to pay the costs of college education.
We commend several initiatives of the Governor, General Assembly, and the Council of Higher Education. We needed to put a lid on tuition increases, as Governor Allen and the General Assembly did in 1994. We needed to give students and their families some certainty about tuition charges during the course of their undergraduate careers, as the Council of Higher Education recommended this fall in response to a study request initiated by the Governor and the General Assembly. And we needed to provide a long-term investment vehicle to help parents with young children begin saving now for college educations that are ten or more years in the future, as the General Assembly did in creating the Virginia College Savings Plan.
These controls on tuition and saving vehicles are desirable, and cost containment on the part of colleges and universities is mandatory. But these are not enough. State support of Virginia higher education needs to be increased dramatically. Students and others served by Virginia's colleges and universities need state government to resume its commitment to pay an appropriate share of the costs of higher education.
In the 1995-96 academic year, Virginia is still mired in 43rd place among the states in per-student state support for higher education. Our system, which received 14.5 percent of the state's general fund appropriation as recently as 1989, now receives about 12.6 percent. Tuition and fees for state universities like James Madison, Virginia State, and Longwood are second highest in the nation; for research universities like the University of Virginia, they are 8th highest.
We have experienced a massive shift in responsibility for paying for college from the state to individual students and their families. Tuition that supports half or more of the institutions' educational programs is, in reality, a user fee levied upon those who must have educational opportunities in order to succeed in life. This commission believes that it is time to roll back these fees.
While we applaud the initiative shown by Mr. Dewberry and Dr. Jennelle in their analysis of higher education funding, this commission does not believe it has either a mandate or the expertise to make specific recommendations about the higher education budget in the coming biennium. We do, however, offer for consideration several general observations upon which funding policy for the years ahead might be shaped.
First, we know we need to increase the state appropriation per student. We believe that higher education has value, and that we don't need to give it away with bargain basement tuition rates. On the other hand, we think that low funding per student sends the wrong message to students and the business community. We know that there are advocates for much higher levels of funding. But as we examine the historic record, we note that when Virginia was funded at about the mid-point among the states, its system of higher education was regarded as among the best in the nation. We want our colleges and universities to be adequately funded but we also want to encourage thrift and innovation.
Second, we recommend that the balance between state general fund support and tuition and fees, which are the two sources of revenue that pay for the educational and general operations of colleges and universities, should be restored to where it was in 1989, at the community colleges and at the undergraduate level for resident students. We think this is especially urgent for Virginia undergraduate students. Overall, tuition and fees now comprise just over half the revenue spent on educational and general programs; in 1989 tuition and fees comprised 37 percent of the total for baccalaureate-level institutions and about 25 percent of the funding for community colleges. Then, undergraduate Virginians paid about 25 percent of their costs at the senior institutions and about 20 percent in the community colleges; now they pay 38 and 34 percent, respectively. We think the funding sources need to be re-balanced.
A first step here would be to accept Mr. Dewberry's suggestion (page 15 of Appendix A) that higher education funding increases in the next several years come entirely from the state's general fund with no increases in tuition and fees. An alternative is to apply this principle to the tuition of Virginia undergraduates but to allow other tuitions to increase moderately.
Third, adequate faculty salaries are essential. In every field of human endeavor, from business to professional athletics, we can see that "money talks." The best teams are assembled by organizations that are willing to pay good salaries and to provide other, less-tangible forms of compensation.
Fifteen years ago, outstanding teachers and scholars were moving from the east coast to the western and southwestern states for bigger salaries and better facilities. Virginia reversed that trend in the middle 1980s when it made a commitment to increase average faculty salaries to a level substantially above the average of each Virginia institution's group of "benchmark" institutions nationally. This commitment resulted in several years of double-digit average faculty salary increases. Suddenly, all roads led to Virginia. By 1989, the objective had been reached and all institutions were at least at the 60th percentile of their list of benchmark institutions.
Six years later, following a series of increases that did not keep up with inflation, our institutions average around the 30th percentile of their benchmark groups20 points below the average salaries of institutions most like themselves. While there are individual instances of "stars" who have been lured away from Virginia universities, the more significant reports come from provosts and vice presidents for academic affairs about their recruiting efforts. In the late 1980s, these administrators report, they were able to hire virtually every one of their top choices. Now they get one out of two or three.
The commission recommends that Virginia commit itself to faculty salaries that are above average nationally, and a rededication to the principle that all institutions be at the 60th percentile of their benchmark institutions. Salary increases should be based on performance and tied to rigorous review of all faculty, tenured or not. But we emphasize what seems to us to be fundamental: the major resource of colleges and universities is human capital, the men and women who are responsible for the rich variety of learning that must occur in outstanding institutions of higher education.
We also think it is important to support the Eminent Scholars program which matches with general funds the income earned on endowed professorships, to help our colleges and universities attract truly outstanding faculty.
Fourth, Virginia has to invest in technology, especially advanced computing and communications networks. We have spoken on this subject earlier and will not repeat ourselves. But Virginia is not ahead in this area, especially in the networking that is essential to connect our universities with one another and with the industries they serve. Virginia does have many assets on which to build. The Virginia Community College system in partnership with Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University has initiated planning efforts to develop a broad band, wide area network that will extend across the Commonwealth for use by all institutions as well as local schools. Using the 38-campus structure of the VCCS as the backbone of the network, the long term goal is to provide a robust telecommunications infrastructure throughout the state, the ultimate goal being the extension of network-based courses to substantially more students at lower costs. We need a major investment in such a system for the good of higher education and also for the economy as a whole.
The Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund seems to be the best mechanism available to provide instructional and research equipment to our colleges and universities. But the fund will have to in crease in size and probably should be expanded to include equipment used administratively to serve students. On-line career placement systems, for instance, or administrative systems that relieve students from the necessity of standing in multiple lines in order to pay their bills, register for classes, and apply for financial aid, are items that should be eligible for funding through the equipment trust.
Fifth, higher education needs an on-going, predictable source of capital funding for renovations and construction of new facilities. We commend the six-year planning process that has been introduced; it gives administration officials, legislators, and higher education administrators a much better sense for the order in which facilities need to be renovated or constructed. But the commission does not think that higher education can rely upon occasional general obligation bond issues to meet its capital outlay needs.
Several years ago, the possibility of using debt issued by the Virginia College Building Authority as a means of financing state-supported college and university building and renovation was discussed. We recommend that this possibility be considered once again. Prudent, orderly issuance of debt to finance capital outlay seems to us to be an essential part of state government's responsibility in the future.
Sixth, need-based financial aid and grants provided under the Guaranteed Assistance Act for students attending the public institutions must keep pace both with cost increases and with the increasing number of students who are eligible. While appropriations for financial aid have more than doubled over the last three biennia, Virginia in the same time-frame has slipped from meeting 50 percent of a students remaining need, to less than 35 percent. The Council of Higher Education recommends that the 50 percent level be restored by 1997-98, and the commission endorses that proposal.
Seventh, we need to look differently at how we can use the strong resources of Virginia's independent colleges and universities. We are told that the independent colleges and universities have capacity to accept 7,000 more Virginians. We need those 7,000 places. The Council of Higher Education has told us that it is planning on them as it develops its estimates of capital outlay needs in the state-supported colleges and universities.
We want to acknowledge here the value of the Tuition Assistance Grant Program in Virginia higher education. Created more than 20 years ago, this program has provided non-need-based grants to thousands of Virginians attending independent colleges and universities. In so doing, it has helped numerous institutions survive uncertain times.
But the Tuition Assistance Grants have been frozen in place, like all of higher education during the past six years. The grant was at $1,500 in 1989 and it has not increased since. We recommend that this program receive the same careful attention that we recommend for the funding of state-supported higher education in the coming years. Both should increase at the same rate to emphasize the historic strength of a single system of private and public institutions. We also support continuation of the pilot program that provides incentives for community college transfer students in areas not served by a public institution to stay home and attend the local independent institution.
Eighth, we recommend that the Council of Higher Education, in consultation with the state-supported colleges and universities, develop a cost accounting procedure that will, at the least, enable policy makers to know the actual average annual cost of educating graduate, professional, and undergraduate students. The current methods, all of which are only approximations based upon enrollments and revenues available to the institutions, are not sufficiently precise for an undertaking that spends well in excess of $3.5 billion a year.
The Council should estimate the cost of developing a cost-accounting procedure and present its finding to the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees by the end of the current fiscal year.
B. Virginia's Community Colleges
We are troubled by the apparent incongruity between the roles played by Virginia's community colleges and the ways in which they are funded. We recognize that enrollment-driven guidelines have not been used in Virginia for almost a decade, but it still remains true that institutions are funded roughly according to how many students they enroll. Indeed, it is difficult for us to imagine a funding procedure in which this was not at least in part true.
But community colleges are not just "cut-down" universities. Their mission and the students they serve are often quite different from four-year colleges and universities. The community colleges often serve as the community platform from which education and training services from a variety of providers can be made available. In addition, the VCCS increasingly provides non-credit, contracted instruction to business and industry, providing services to almost as many students in non-credit courses as they do in credit. Community college non-traditional students come and go, and return again, based on individual needs and changes in workplace demands for knowledge-based performance. They frequently do not earn degrees; in fact, they often enroll with no intention whatsoever of earning degrees but instead have a specific job-related goal in mind.
We recommend that the General Assembly direct the Council of Higher Education, working with the Virginia Community College System, to develop and propose a new way of strengthening and focusing the funding for community colleges. Perhaps the Council can devise a funding method that recognizes and appropriately supports four distinct groups of community college students:
--Those enrolled to earn an academic degree, whether they intend to transfer to a senior institution or not;
--Those enrolled to achieve a specific educational objective short of an academic degree and perhaps no more extensive than a single course;
--Those enrolled for specific training under contract with Virginia industries in which the state has an economic development interest; and
--Those enrolled for avo-cational or recreational purposes.
The community colleges are a critical and often-overlooked part of Virginia's economic development team. The health of existing Virginia industries often depends upon the continuous training of workers, and the attractiveness of Virginia to firms considering new sites often depends upon the availability of a skilled workforce.
From what we have seen, we question whether the community colleges have adequate resources or support to fulfill their responsibilities as part of the economic development team.
IV. THE LINK BETWEEN DECENTRALIZATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Virginia's system of higher education has made "accountability" one of its three key goals since the Virginia Plan for Higher Education was published in 1974. (The other two goals are "access" and "high quality.") Twenty years ago, institutions were developing the financial systems that would enable them to demonstrate good stewardship of the money appropriated to them by the General Assembly. Generally speaking, that objective has been reached and the focus has shifted from accounting for all the money to accounting for the results achieved with it.
We are interested now in clear demonstrations of what taxpayers, tuition-payers, and other investors in Virginia higher education are getting for their money. This is the "new accountability" in higher education.
It is at this point that the decentralization efforts of the past decade and the current efforts to restructure colleges and universities come together. For more than a decade, Virginia has slowly been decentralizing operating responsibility to its state-supported colleges and universities. Beginning with a set of financial performance measures that institutions had to meet in order to be eligible for additional autonomy, state government has moved toward relinquishing direct operating control of many standard activities, at least on a pilot basis.
Accountability for results began formally about a decade ago, when the Council of Higher Education proposed that each institution begin assessing undergraduate student learning. The Council's primary objective was to promote curricular change and improvement within the institutions, and the process has produced notable but spotty results. More important from the standpoint of accountability, results across institutions are not comparable.
The Council and the institutions now have put in place a set of "performance indicators" that will be used beginning this year to describe characteristics of each institution. These are the kinds of things consumers and other stake-holders want to know about colleges and universities: academic profiles of entering students, average class sizes, frequency of contact with senior faculty, graduation rates after four and five years, job placements, and so on.
We think that the Council and the institutions should include among these "indicators" the results of alumni and employer satisfaction surveys. Institutions and the public ought to know whether graduates think they have been well-prepared and employers are satisfied with those whom they hire.
We also encourage the Council and the institutions to experiment with standardized achievement examinations as a way to determine what graduates know and can do after completing baccalaureate or associate degrees. We know that there are legitimate causes for concern about statewide examinations, particularly because they can lead to misleading comparisons among institutions with different missions and students. But we also hear expressed more than a little concern that standards have slipped over the years. Those responsible for Virginia higher education should do everything possible to monitor their own quality.
Having begun to decentralize and promote accountability for results, we think further steps may be appropriate in the near future.
We propose that the Council of Higher Education develop and present to the Governor and the General Assembly a plan whereby Virginia might assign selected colleges and universities greater responsibility for their daily operations and for their long-term development. We see this as the con tinuation of the restructuring and decentralization efforts that currently are reshaping our system of higher education. Eventually, all of Virginia higher education might participate in this extension of results-oriented accountability.
The Council's plan should be developed in close consultation with the leadership of Virginia's colleges and universities, with the agencies of central state government that now oversee many of the daily operations of the institutions, and with cognizant committees of the General Assembly. In preparing its plan, the Council should consider the possibility that certain schools or colleges within a university might be recommended for independent status, as well. The plan should provide for evaluation of its effectiveness after a period of time by appropriate committees of the General Assembly.
We do not foresee this plan diminishing in any way the active involvement of the Governor and the General Assembly in shaping our system of higher education. Rather, we foresee a lessened need and justification for central government to oversee and overrule daily operational transactions of the institutions. But the checks of executive and legislative oversight, fiscal audit, and Council of Higher Education coordination will remain intact.
We believe that the faculty, administrators, and staff of the institutions will assume greater responsibility for the results they produce when they are given greater responsibility for their operations. This is true not only of institutions of higher education, but of any organization. If the state intrudes, oversees, or over-rules, college and university employees will regard their obligations to the public as diminished because they are not in control.
When the Council of Higher Education proposes a plan that is acceptable to the Governor and the General Assembly, we envision that selected colleges and universities with strong records of excellent administrative performance might become quasi-public entities that are responsible for all of their own operational processes. As instrumentalities of the state, they would continue to serve its citizens, businesses, and institutions. Their missions and clients would not change, but the forms of their accountability would change.
This might mean, for instance, that all personnel functions would be managed by the institutions. Although employees could continue to participate in benefit programs (the Virginia Retirement System and the health insurance system, for example) other options might be made available to them.
Administrative systems, such as accounting and purchasing, could be independent of the administrative regulatory processes of central state government, but the institutions would be responsible for complying with the general laws of the Commonwealth, and their financial management would be subject to review by the Auditor of Public Accounts.
To ensure that the colleges and universities remain responsive to the needs of Virginia taxpayers, students and their families, businesses and other institutions, they and their boards would continue to conduct their business under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, the Council of Higher Education would continue to approve enrollment projections, paying particular attention to maintaining an appropriate balance between in-state and out-of-state students. The Council also would continue to make operating and capital outlay budget recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly and to advise both the executive and legislative branches on matters affecting higher education.
To further ensure coordination of the system of higher education, the institutions that might be assigned this special status would continue to be subject to all other planning, review, and approval procedures of the Council of Higher Education.
The selected institutions might be permitted to finance capital auxiliary enterprise and other non-general fund capital projects through the Virginia College Building Authority, subject to Department of Treasury review of financial feasibility and the Council of Higher Education's review of the programmatic justification for the proposed projects. This would be in addition to direct general fund appropriations for capital outlay and financing through general obligation or other debt.
Institutional governance would remain substantially the same, although the boards of visitors would have increased responsibility for oversight. There would be no areas that are beyond their control, as there are now.
In preparing its plan, the Council should consider the possible benefits of permitting the boards of visitors of the selected institutions to appoint a limited number of members in addition to those now appointed by the Governor. There is precedent for this in Virginia with the Museum of Frontier Culture, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
The plan developed by the Council should also consider the possibility of allowing institutions to grant greater autonomy to selected schools, programs, or operations within the colleges and universities that could be largely self-supporting.
In closing, we emphasize again the potential advantages of this further development of restructuring and decentralization, which seem to us to be considerable.
First, accountability would be increased because the people working in the institutions would know that they are fully responsible for how the institutions operate and how well they serve their clients. They would be subject to financial audit by the Auditor of Public Accounts and academic performance "audit" by the Council of Higher Education, thus ensuring accountability for both use of resources and results.
Second, the institutions would have added flexibility to adapt to changes in our economy and the society and could move more quickly and efficiently to do what has to be done. The restructuring programs upon which they have embarked would be improved, and additional funds could be shifted from administration to teaching and other direct services.
Third, the increased autonomy would result in a greater sense of ownership by those who work in the institutions. This, in turn, would yield more imaginative, cost-conscious decision-making. It's our institution, and we're responsible for it. No one is going to bail us out.
Fourth, the domain of state government becomes smaller as the institutions are assigned this quasi-public status. They are serving their clients rather than responding to central state agencies. This is an excellent example of how operational responsibility should be given to those closest to the points of service; government can be downsized to realize the efficiencies inherent in flexible organizational units responsible for the results they produce. Responsiveness can be increased by largely replacing pre-approval with post-audit management.
V. THE ROLE OF THE COUNCIL OF HIGHER EDUCATION
One of the recurring themes in our discussions and presentations made to the commission has been the need to strengthen the Council of Higher Education for Virginia in its role as coordinator of the system of higher education.
Generally, speakers have complimented the Council on its achievements over the years but have urged that it become "tougher" on the colleges and universities in a variety of ways.
State systems of higher education are split into two general groups: those governed centrally by a single board, and those governed at the institutional level with a central board responsible for coordination, planning, and oversight.
Virginia has the second kind of system, with a strong coordinating board and a set of autonomous colleges and universities.
The Council of Higher Education's general charge is to promote the development and operation of an educationally and economically sound, vigorous, progressive, and coordinated system of higher education in the State of Virginia. (Code of Virginia, Section 23-9.3) Specifically, the Council is the planning body for the system. It approves proposals for new academic programs and reviews existing ones for productivity, approves enrollment projections, sets guidelines for operating and capital outlay budget requests, makes budget recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly, and conducts studies and administers programs at the direction of the Governor and the General Assembly.
The Council will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 1996. During the first decade of its existence, its main job was to promote an equitable distribution of resources among a diverse set of institutions. During the middle two decades of its existence, it became more influential in formulating state higher-education policy, and its recommendations came to carry substantial weight as the system of higher education took shape and grew rapidly. During much of the past decade, the Council has become a leading voice in calling for substantial change and improvement to ensure that the system remains fully responsive to the higher education needs of Virginia taxpayers.
We understand the frustrations that lead to proposals that the Council of Higher Education be strengthened. Colleges and universities can be agonizingly slow to change. But there is another perspective. The colleges and universities have served Virginia well over the past half century with relatively modest state support. Rarely, if ever, has Virginia higher education been funded in the top half of the nation's states. Taxpayers continue to seek access to them for themselves and their children. Until out-of-state tuition skyrocketed a few years ago, many fewer students left Virginia for higher education than came here. Consumers of higher education recognize the value offered to them by Virginia's colleges and universities.
And the institutions are changing, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes aggressively, but thoughtfully and responsively. As slow as the process sometimes may seem to those of us who watch it from without, Virginia's colleges and universities are moving faster than those in most other states to meet the needs of students in the 21st century.
Finally, the issue is one of balance. We want a system that behaves like a system: all of its parts working in harmony toward common objectives with minimal waste and inefficiency. We also want to support autonomous institutions governed by boards that are responsible for them. Believing, as we do, that decisions are best made closest to the place where they will be implemented, we want our colleges and universities to set their own admissions standards and decide who will be accepted as students; to hire, promote, and reward for performance the faculty and staff who make the best contributions to each institution's work; to decide what will be taught and how; and to allocate the resources appropriated to the institution and those raised by it.
Combining support for institutional autonomy with desire for a coordinated system makes conflict inevitable. Virginia's system of higher education has had its share of conflicts, about starting new schools, new programs, even about the need for change itself. But on the whole, the conflicts have been remarkably productive rather than bitter and divisive. The system is strong and fluid, not paralyzed by rules and regulations. We see colleges and universities accommodating increasing numbers of students with relatively modest investment by the Commonwealth. While economies surely can be achieved and while it is always worthwhile to press for better ways to discharge the missions of higher education, the system of higher education is functioning well at present.
Yet we realize that there are situations in which institutional ambitions outstrip the needs of the people, when getting bigger or conferring advanced degrees become ends rather than the means of service. We acknowledge that programs can be closed with little or no savings because the faculty simply migrate to other programs where they teach the same courses. And we recognize that it is possible to build a considerable amount of political support for institutional expansions. Through restructuring, the institutions have begun to set priorities among programs, deciding where to concentrate their efforts. Forty-nine programs have been eliminated as a result. Still, the Council should continue its scrutiny of program duplication across the Commonwealth to serve Virginia students efficiently and well.
In the Virginia system of governance, the responsibility for considered action at the campus level rests squarely with the governing boards of the institutions themselves. If board members were appointed and educated to understand that their stewardship on behalf of an individual institution needs to be exercised in the context of the entire system of higher education in Virginia, better decisions would be made at the institutional level.
We therefore recommend that all members of governing boards be required to participate in a formal program of education about board roles and responsibilities. Upon accepting appointment to a college or university governing board, each person should indicate to the Governor his or her willingness to participate in this formal education. (Oklahoma, for instance, requires higher education board members to take 15 hours of continuing education related to their responsibilities. The program is designed and administered by the coordinating board, which is the Oklahoma Board of Regents. The Regent's staff offers some of these courses. Other agencies, like the Attorney General's office, might offer a course on ethics and public policy for which a new board member might receive credit.) The Council of Higher Education should be directed to develop the educational program, including a manual of member responsibilities, in consultation with the colleges and universities and drawing upon the experiences of other states. It should prepare a budget for this activity for consideration by the General Assembly during the 1996 legislative session.
While we emphatically do not want the Council of Higher Education to do the kind of rigid, top-down planning that would put each Virginia college and university into a strait-jacket, we think that policy makers would be helped by having a general sense of what probably will happen in the system of higher education in the immediate future.
In consultation with the presidents of the colleges and universities, the Council should begin to prepare a broad, strategic plan of how it sees the system developing over the next six years. This plan should be revised periodically as part of an ongoing strategic planning process. The plan should include where additional enrollment growth is expected; what kinds of new programs, campuses, and technology based delivery systems are anticipated; how the faculty and staff of the institutions will change; and what kinds of financial commitments state government should anticipate in order to keep our system of higher education among the best in the nation.
We recommend that the Council be directed to begin this planning process, addressing these and such other future developments as it deems appropriate. It should present its first report to the Governor and the General Assembly in advance of the 1998-2000 biennium and revisions each biennium thereafter so they can be taken into consideration in formulating policy and budget for higher education.
Throughout this report, we call upon the State Council to coordinate more activities and develop more programs. We also recognize that the Council must continue to perform its existing responsibilities well. Therefore, it becomes obvious that the Council requires additional resources.
This commission concludes that Virginia needs an adequately staffed and adequately funded Council of Higher Education to continue to be an advocate for advanced learning in the Commonwealth. We cannot emphasize too strongly that an under-staffed and ill-funded Council will be unable to provide the guidance and oversight required in this time of change and restructuring. The Council should be independent of the interests of the institutions and of all the other interested parties. It should have the statutory authority and political capital to affect institutional behavior so that it serves the needs of the Commonwealth. Its advocacy should be, in the broadest sense, on behalf of the people of Virginia.
The Council's agenda should clearly reflect the concerns and aspirations of the general public, and the Council s agenda for tomorrow must include the findings and recommendations this commission makes today.
Our commission does not want and does not recommend that the Council become yet another stifling regulatory body for higher education. Yet, the commission, in very strong terms, expects of both the Council and the institutions steady, firm achievement of the changes and objectives this report calls for.
Finally, during several conversations over the past year about ways to reward some institutional behaviors and discourage others, the commission has been reminded that the Council of Higher Education lacks both "carrots and sticks." Only on rare occasions, usually when the budget bill is being written, can executive and legislative action provide incentives and disincentives for various institutional behaviors.
The Commonwealth needs the capacity to reward behaviors Virginia wants to encourage at the institutions and to discourage other behavior by withholding reward. The commission recommends that a substantial fund be created in the Council of Higher Education that would provide incentives to the institutions to meet the change and improvement challenges spelled out in this document and in their restructuring plans. The commission proposes that the details of such a fund be developed by the Governor and General Assembly.
VI. CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
During the commis-sion's deliberations, we were challenged to clearly state our expectations for higher education - what we wanted our public colleges and universities to do. Throughout this report, we recommend a number of specific actions, studies, and considerations, and we trust that the Council and the institutions will take this report seriously.
We were also mindful that the reports of study commissions often do little more than collect dust on a shelf. To make this document the users manual that we envisioned, we call upon the General Assembly to review progress and opportunities in higher education every four years, with the first such review starting in the year 2000.
As our chairman succinctly stated in his prologue, higher education in Virginia is an asset that needs to be nurtured and supported. We trust that this report will prove a useful guide to our public and private colleges and universities, to the Council of Higher Education, and the policy makers who are responsible for nurturing and supporting higher education in Virginia as we move into the next century.
Refocusing Higher Education in Virginia: A Presentation to Members of the Chichester Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Virginia
by Sidney O. Dewberry and Ernest M. Jennelle
Newsletters published by the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Virginia
Baliles Calls For States' Actions To Match Rhetoric, July 1994
Strategies To Accommodate 80,000 More Students Outlined, September 1994
Higher Education Plays Pivotal Role In Economic Development, Panel Told, October 1994
Faculty Discuss Restructuring, Concerns, November 1994
The Value of Restructuring Outlined, April 1995
Teleconference Emphasizes Technology, May 1995
Faculty Rewards, Learning Productivity Examined, June 1995
Commission Examines Accountability, Economic Development Opportunities, September 1995
To obtain copies of these publications or for more information, please contact:
The State Council of Higher Education
101 N. 14th Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Fax: (804) 786-0572
TDD: (804) 371-8017
Worldwide Web: www.schev.edu