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SCHEV Insights: COVID-19 Shines a Light on Why Virginia Needs to Double Down on Education and Training Investments

Mar 11, 2021, 10:05 AM

Contact: Laura Osberger
lauraosberger@schev.edu
(804) 387-5191 (mobile)

March 11, 2021

For immediate release

RICHMOND — The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) today released a new analysis of unemployment insurance claims by education levels, demonstrating how higher education insulates workers from economic disruption.

This guest post by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) Pam Harder outlines how the COVID-19 crisis is shining a flashlight on disparities by education attainment -- and making it all the more urgent for Virginia to invest heavily in a spectrum of education initiatives. VEDP has been tracking a number of economic indicators tied to Virginia’s COVID-19 recovery.

In partnership with the Virginia Employment Commission, which administers the Commonwealth’s unemployment benefits, VEDP has gleaned compelling insights into unemployed Virginians. For example, Chart 1 below shows that only 19% of Virginia’s unemployment insurance (UI) claimants hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (41% of Virginia's working population have a Bachelor’s degree or above).

Chart 1: Education attainment level of Virginia UI claimants
Educational attainment

Each year across Virginia’s roughly 85,000 high school graduates, 71% of them enroll in a college or training program within 16 months of graduation. However, that participation rate is only 56% for economically disadvantaged high school students. By looking at FAFSA completions as an early indicator of next fall’s enrollment, there is reason to believe that percentage could be even lower in the future.

Said Harder, “We know that education and training investments are the key not only to an inclusive and resilient COVID economic recovery in Virginia in the near-term, but also the key to achieving our longer-term goal of becoming the best state for education in America. Our people are our engine of growth that will enable our workers of all backgrounds and our employers of all shapes and sizes to continue to thrive.”

The budget coming out of the 2021 General Assembly session makes new investments in college affordability and access. For instance, the budget funds a new Office of Education & Workforce Alignment at VEDP, as well as a new statewide college access program, Guidance to Postsecondary Success (GPS) which will develop resources and strategies to improve FAFSA completion rates and generally help prospective students navigate the college application process.

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All Insight posts are available at https://schev.edu/index/reports/insights.


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