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Statewide Summit Seeks to Broaden Higher Education Access, Success and Completion

by Feng Raoking | Jun 10, 2016

June 6, 2016

RICHMOND — As we watch Virginia’s high -school students graduate, we know those diplomas alone can no longer guarantee a good job. Opportunity for success in America – opportunity to succeed in life and work – increasingly depends on postsecondary education.

But many students face challenges as they pursue that opportunity, including uneven access to higher education, increasing student debt and the struggles of many to graduate.

Addressing those challenges will be the focus of “Our Students, Our Future,” a one-day statewide summit this week on college access, success and completion.

The June 8 summit at the Westin Hotel in Richmond will bring together nearly 300 representatives from across the educational spectrum – including representatives from Complete College America; university and college presidents, administrators and faculty; K-12 educators and counselors; access coordinators; and state officials including Secretary of Education Anne Holton – to discuss the challenges and opportunities around access, success and completion. Governor Terry McAuliffe will appear via a video message.

While Virginia is one of the 10 best-educated states in the nation, much work needs to be done to meet The Virginia Plan for Higher Education’s goal of being No. 1 by 2030, according to an analysis by the Lumina Foundation and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

The Commonwealth ranks sixth in the United States in educational attainment, with 51 percent of college-age students attaining a postsecondary degree or workforce credential. To reach No. 1, Virginia’s attainment rate will need to reach 70 percent within 14 years – an additional 1.5 million postsecondary degrees and workforce credentials, according to SCHEV’s analysis.

“What we’ve found is that more education leads to increased income and better lives,” said SCHEV Director Peter Blake. “But many Virginians in many parts of our state face obstacles to furthering their education. We want to change that.”

To be first in education, among other things Virginia will need to:

  • Strengthen partnerships between K-12 and post-secondary institutions.
  • Improve access and completion rates for historically underrepresented populations.
  • Increase educational options for all Virginians, particularly those in areas of the state that have lower levels of educational attainment.
  • Expand options for workforce training and credentials.

“This is a big challenge, and we need a big push to overcome it,” Blake said. “Students who are in second grade right now will be the graduating class of 2030. How do we prepare for their success? That is what this summit is really about.”


Edward Ayers, president emeritus, the University of Richmond
Peter A. Blake , director, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
Courtney Browndirector of organizational performance and evaluation, Lumina Foundation
Billy K. Cannaday Jr. , president, Virginia Board of Education
Elizabeth Creamer, adviser for workforce development, Office of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Governor Terry McAuliffe
Tressie McMillan Cottom , assistant professor of sociology, Virginia Commonwealth University; faculty associate, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard
Anne Holton, Virginia secretary of education
Blake Johnson, communications director, Complete College America
Jimmie Massie, member, Virginia House of Delegates
G. Gilmer Minor III, chair, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; chairman emeritus, Owens & Minor Inc.
Sharon Morrissey, vice chancellor for academic services and research, Virginia Community College System
Michael Rao, president, Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health System 
Steven R. Staples, Virginia superintendent of public instruction 
Walter Stosch , Virginia state senator (retired)
Teresa A. Sullivan , president, the University of Virginia

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia is the state’s coordinating agency for higher education. For more information on the summit, an agenda and bios, click here. For more on The Virginia Plan, click here.

For more information, contact Greg Weatherford, associate for communications and outreach, at or (804) 786-2323.

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