2002 – IN THE BEGINNING:
The organization now known as Virginia21 came to life in a small coffee shop on the campus of William and Mary. These students realized that young voters needed a seat at the table. They found their vehicle in 2002 by starting the “Students PAC” to support higher education leaders in Virginia with the passage of a major higher education bond referendum. It began by registering students to vote at one campus and quickly turned into the Countryʼs and the Commonwealthʼs first generational advocacy group for young voters.
2003 – FUND VIRGINIAʼS FUTURE INITIATIVE:
In their first year as an organization, Virginia21 gathered student leaders from our four year colleges throughout the Commonwealth in support of higher education. Realizing that Virginiaʼs next generation was more important than slogans and sound bites, student leaders gathered 13,000 petitions and sent them to their elected representatives, proving that, as the Washington Post put it, “there was a new voice in town this year, one which was heard loud and clear by lawmakers.”
2004 – PAY A PENNY OR PASS THE BUCK CAMPAIGN:
Student leaders collected over 200,000 pennies, nearly 1-ton, and presented them to the state treasury. Each penny represented a student who wanted the General Assembly to invest in higher education. By the end of the session, lawmakers invested $275 million new dollars for higher education funding.
2005 – TEXTBOOK MARKET REFORMS:
Virginia21 created a market based solution to help aid students with the rising costs of textbooks. After a General Assembly study showed that students could save as much as 40%-60% by comparison shopping, over 300 students showed up to pack a committee hearing room to ensure that the General Assembly addressed the issue of textbook fairness. Students won the right to have their book lists before classes start.
2006 – SAVE 1246 PLAN:
In 2006, students learned that state funding for higher education was short by $1,246 per student. Student leaders from across the state quickly rallied together and in two weeks they collected 12,531 signatures from across the Commonwealth in support of increased funding. By the end of the budget process, students helped get $233 million new dollars for our colleges and universities put in the budget.
2007 – TWO-YEAR COLLEGE TRANSFER GRANT PROGRAM:
Virginia21 wasted no time in its ﬁrst year working with the community college system by supporting the idea of a transfer grant. Recognizing that it is vital to keep college affordable and accessible, Virginia21 sought out students to make the case. In one week, 7,500 community college students who had never organized before signed petitions in support of the campaign. An additional 1,000 students called their delegates and senators to alert them to the importance of this issue. The result was the creation of the ﬁrst transfer grant program in the country.
2008 – 21ST CENTURY CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM:
In a ﬂashback to the origins of Virginia21, students began talking to their representatives about the need for a capital construction campaign to keep up with the fast-growing pace of our colleges and universities. With a united front including students, college presidents, and the business community, the General Assembly passed a $1.9 billion capital investment program to plan and construct 82 new buildings on campuses across the state. It was the largest investment in higher education infrastructure ever!
2009 – STUDENT VOTING RIGHTS:
2009 was the culmination of a 5-year effort by students to be able to choose whether to register to vote on campus or where their parents lived. Before Virginia21 got involved, that decision lay in the hands of county registrars, and the rules were different all over the state. After thousands of phone calls, signed petitions, and meetings with elected ofﬁcials, students won the right to decide where they could vote. Students rallied to increase their participation in the process, gaining an even greater inﬂuence in both Richmond and their local communities.
2010 – DEFENSE IS SOMETIMES THE BEST OFFENSE:
Facing a sluggish economy and $7 billion in state budget cuts, students rallied against a proposal that would have allowed the state, for the ﬁrst time in history, to seize $20 million in private student funds dedicated to on-campus student activities to help plug the budget deﬁcit. Virginia21 students jumped into action, spending countless hours talking to elected ofﬁcials, and organizing a state-wide lobbying effort encouraging Governor McDonnell to support their cause. The money was restored by the Chairmen of the House Appropriations committee and the Senate Finance committee with both men citing unprecedented advocacy on behalf of college students.
2011 – GROW BY DEGREES:
Recognizing how vital to our economic recovery an educated workforce is the Virginia Business Higher Education Council started the Grow By Degrees campaign to push for greater investment in higher education through pushing for 100,000 new college graduates over the next 15 years. Virginia21 joined the coalition of business, community, and corporate leaders as the student arm of the campaign. Our members coordinated legislative forums, visited with over 100 legislators, delivered testimony in front of the Senate Finance Education Sub-Committee, organized multiple e-mail and phone drives, and hosted our first ever Twitter Town Hall. With the overwhelming support of VA21 members and the Grow By Degrees coalition, the Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed the most significant investments and reforms to higher education in over 40 years.