October 23, 2006
SCHEV Releases Status Report on Systemwide Strategic Plan
— Report examines progress made toward goals of 2002 strategic plan,
which were to be accomplished by 2010 —
RICHMOND — The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) this week released a status report examining the Commonwealth’s progress towards three key goals outlined in the agency’s strategic plan:
1.) Accommodate an additional 61,000 students,
2.) Increase Virginia’s national standing in sponsored research, and
3.) Enhance the Commonwealth’s commitment to instructional quality.
The current strategic plan, entitled Advancing Virginia Through Higher Education: The Systemwide Strategic Plan for Higher Education in Virginia, was originally developed and released by SCHEV in December 2002 in an effort to guide long-term planning efforts at the agency, as well as at each of Virginia’s colleges and universities in accordance with their individual mission and resources. The status report concludes that, although there are areas which are progressing slowly, the Commonwealth is moving in the right direction to achieve its three primary goals by 2010 as outlined in the plan.
“It is a very appropriate time to evaluate our progress now that we’ve reached the halfway mark from the plan’s initial creation in 2002 to the proposed 2010 date for reaching the key goals,” says Daniel J. LaVista, SCHEV’s Executive Director. “Thanks to the considerable efforts of Virginia’s public and private institutions, our report concludes that we have a solid base on which to build a foundation for the Commonwealth’s next generation of college students.”
To assess progress towards the first goal of accommodating an additional 61,000 students, performance indicators outlined in the strategic plan were examined, including the number of additional students served, transfer rates between community colleges and senior institutions, and student retention and graduation rates. The status report indicates that the number of students enrolled in public and private, non-profit institutions in Virginia increased by 49,276 students from fall 2000 to fall 2005, an increase of 13.5% for a total of 413,029 enrolled students. The number of degrees awarded by Virginia’s public colleges and universities also increased accordingly, growing by 13.2% to a total of 51,290 degrees in 2005-06. Additionally, it is noted in the status report that the number of students from under-represented populations will likely increase as the Restructuring Act charges institutions to find ways to provide access to higher education for all Virginians, including racial and ethnic minorities, first-generation college students, and students from low income families.
Progress towards the second goal of increasing Virginia’s standing in sponsored research is harder to measure, according to the status report. Virginia’s six public research institutions have all increased the actual dollar amounts of sponsored research conducted. However, only George Mason University and Virginia Commonwealth University made any gains in the national ranking of research expenditures, while the other four lost ground in the rankings. Similarly, while total research expenditures at the state level increased by nearly 40%, that increase was only sufficient to maintain the state’s ranking of 37th for research expenditures per capita. However, the Commonwealth’s 2006-08 budget allocates $66.2 million in General Fund dollars and $95.8 million in Non-General Fund dollars to higher education research initiatives in the Commonwealth, an investment that is likely to stimulate further sponsored research.
The status report indicates that Virginia is on the right track to meet the final goal of enhancing the Commonwealth’s commitment to instructional quality. Faculty salary averages have begun to rebound since reaching an average low at the 36th percentile during the 2002-03 fiscal year, with most institutions rating above the 45th percentile by 2005-06. Institutions have also been highly responsive to need in critical shortage areas, increasing degrees awarded in subjects such as engineering, nursing, and teaching by 27% since the 2002-03 academic year. Finally, SCHEV and the institutions have completed the first full round of reporting on the six core competencies adopted by the Council, and results of an evaluation of the competency reports are expected later this year to help define next steps in assessing student learning.
SCHEV is the Commonwealth’s coordinating body for Virginia’s system of higher education. The agency provides policy guidance and budget recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly, and is a resource for information on Virginia colleges and universities on higher education issues. A copy of the full report is available on the SCHEV web site.