The Commonwealth has one of the best systems of higher education in the country. One ranking puts Virginia at number one. We have a diverse array of four-year public and private institutions and an outstanding community college system. We have high graduation rates, and Virginia college graduates generally get a very positive return on their educational investment.
However, there are many areas in desperate need of improvement, and some where we lag behind our neighboring states. We have major equity gaps both in terms of access and completion that disadvantage low-income students and students of color. Students in Tennessee, Maryland, and North Carolina receive significantly more state funding per pupil than students in Virginia. In 2011, the General Assembly announced a goal that the state should shoulder 2/3 of the cost of college for each Virginia public school student. Over a decade later, the state only pays for around half. Fortunately, we have opportunities to make major improvements.
Funding financial aid is the best way for the state to direct capital to those students most in need. By supplying adequate financial aid and encouraging all high school seniors to fill out the FAFSA, we can ensure that all young people have the resources to pursue some form of postsecondary education.
Continuing to fund and expand the G3 (Get skilled, Get a job, Get ahead) Program will give students who might not otherwise attend college of any kind a cost-free pathway to a good-paying job in a high-demand field
Reworking the state funding model to ensure that money is being directed towards schools with students in need will ensure that our dollars are being spent in the best way possible. The state must also adequately fund all of our schools to mitigate skyrocketing tuition costs and crippling student debt.