Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates' Higher Ed Policies (Breakdown)

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Regardless of what party you side with (or if you side with a party) higher education is an everyone topic. The subject of higher education is something that is very important today, yet can seem so complex to understand. Let's break down the Virginia Gubernatorial candidates' higher education policies:

                                     Click the photo to read Northam's entire higher ed policy.

                                     Click the photo to read Northam's entire higher ed policy.

Ralph Northam's (D) higher education policy zeros in on college affordability and investment in Virginia residents and their skills. Northam's ultimate goal being to make Virginia the best state for economic development and innovation. He believes that the talent that is needed in order to achieve this goal lies in Virginia's universities.


A Four-Year Promise that would give students and families certainty as to what the cost of a four-year education will be. To the extent possible, universities will guarantee financial aid packages will be the same all four years.

Skills Gap

The state will fund last-dollar tuition and fees for any Virginian to pursue a workforce training credential or an associate degree in one of the targeted, new-collar job areas like IT and healthcare. Upon completing the free associate degree or workforce credential, the student will commit to one year of public service

Student Borrower’s Bill of Rights

Create legislation that requires licensure of qualified education loan servicers in the commonwealth. Creating a statewide student loan ombudsman will provide students and recent graduates a go-to resource for information, and help protect students and their families from unethical lending companies. 


The commonwealth will create a one-stop-shop website to post information related to for-profit colleges so prospective students and families can  get the facts from one, reliable source. The website will include consumer complaints, annual certification renewals and accreditation reports, loan default rates, graduation rates, and average wages of graduates for select years post graduations.

Expand Shared Services Efficiencies

To create efficiencies and cost savings, a voluntary shared services center would be created to support financial aid and back office services and business transactions for the smaller universities and colleges. This center would also serve as a centralized collection agency for universities to reconcile student accounts that are 60 to 90 days overdue before sending claims to high-interest rate collection agencies.


Continue to support our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

Increase Access to Affordable Online Learning and Open Education Resources (free textbooks)

Include the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and other interested universities to Online Virginia, a partnership between George Mason University and Old Dominion University that serves about 11,000 students currently.

Invest in Rural Virginia

Invest in University of Virginia at Wise to build out programs in high-demand job fields like cybersecurity, energy, computer science, and unmanned aerial systems. In turn, attracting talent and economic development to Southwest Virginia. 

Innovation - Increase Research Capacity and Commercialization of New Discoveries

Maximize the economic impact of universities by making Virginia’s core research resources more visible and easily accessible among the university researchers, as well as to industry, entrepreneurs, and investors. With the end goal being to make Virginia the best state for startup businesses and scaleups.  

Use Universities as Centers for Entrepreneurship and Regional Growth

Encourage students, especially young women, to be innovative and start new 21st century businesses. Embedding entrepreneurship curriculum and skills in multiple disciplines across a campus builds a culture a creativity and encourages students to contribute ideas to society. Support and recognize the critical role our colleges and universities play in preparing Virginians for the workforce, creating new discoveries and new jobs, and serving as important anchors to our regional communities

Brand Virginia as the Best State for Talent and Research

The marketing plan will first start with raising awareness of the need for post-secondary credentials from a workforce certification to a graduate degree. To help attract top researchers, entrepreneurs, and students, universities will work together to identify statewide collaborations and strengths of the research community

                                       Click the photo to read Gillespie's entire higher ed policy.

                                       Click the photo to read Gillespie's entire higher ed policy.

Ed Gillespie's (R) higher education policy focuses on forming partnerships between higher education institutions and; consumers, businesses, and state government agencies. Gillespie's goal is to make Virginia the "opportunity capital", and he believes that this can be done through direct collaboration with current resources in order to sustain and discover the untapped talent in the Commonwealth.

Business-education partnership focused on workforce development and retention in Virginia, zoning in on:

  • Curriculum Alignment
    • Partnerships between business organizations and colleges, universities, community colleges, and other providers to provide ongoing curriculum advice and assistance. Aligning the curriculum to meet the needs of the modern workforce would make job opportunities for college graduates more attainable. 
  • Internships and Externships for Work Experience
    • Encourage business partnerships to better align curriculum and apprenticeship, internship and work- based learning opportunities.  
  • Retention
    • Partnerships to encourage talented young Virginians to attend college in the Commonwealth and to stay here to work after graduation.  
  • New Virginians  
    • Partnerships that promote Virginia’s higher education system to talented young people from other states (for slots not dedicated to Virginians) and that encourage the students to stay and work in Virginia after graduation.  
  • Returning Veterans
    • Partnerships that help veterans build on experience gained in military service and obtain the degrees or credentials that lead to good job opportunities.  
  • Critical Workforce Shortages
    • Create partnerships to accurately identify the disciplines where business expansion in Virginia and/or economic development efforts are seriously impeded by specific skills gaps, especially workforce shortages that cut across multiple regions, and fashion collaborative strategies for systematically remedying the shortages.  
  • Research Partnerships
    • Partnerships among higher education institutions and between universities and business organizations to promote university-based research, attract more federal and private research investment in Virginia, and translate research into commercial opportunities such as start-up businesses.  

Partnership between the Commonwealth and our colleges on access and affordability for all Virginians focusing on:

  • Results-focused Funding
    •  Expectations and accountability for results that matter on an institution-specific basis.  
  • Financial Predictability
    • Making state funding more reliable and predictable, and passing along those benefits to students and their parents, by creating a higher education reserve fund in Virginia. This will make state support for higher education less vulnerable to economic swings. Revenue uncertainty increases costs to students and families, a reserve fund would help to control this.
  • Net Cost Restraint
    • Reining in the net cost to students and the resulting student debt burden by implementing a strategy based on institution performance and operational support from the state.  
  • Affordable Alternatives
    • Providing students and their families with an expanded array of choices, including lower cost alternatives such as online learning opportunities, community college transfer programs, collaborative high school and community college (dual enrollment) programs, and advanced placement options. 
  • Incentivized Collaboration
    • Having the higher education institutions partner strategically to improve outcomes and control costs. Collaboration with the State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) to expand on the recent work by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) by comprehensively examining the progress of each institution in addressing the JLARC recommendations and in implementing restructuring reforms, Top Jobs Act measures, economic development objectives, and other recent policy initiatives. 
  • Enhanced Governance
    • Strengthening the role and impact of state-appointed fiduciaries in the management of public higher education institutions.  He plans to convene a highly respected panel of former rectors and board of visitors members, college presidents, and legislative and executive branch leaders, to examine best practices in Virginia and elsewhere and craft policies that will enhance the effectiveness of Virginia’s higher education governing boards. 

A consumer-focused partnership between higher education institutions and the students and families they serve:

  • Providing affordable alternatives.
  • Enhancing career advice and job placement services at institutions
  • Transparency on results and return, providing information about what it will cost to attend a particular institution and what they will have to show for it when study is complete—the results and the return on investment.
  • Results-Focused Funding will tie state funding for higher education to outcomes including:
    • Expected enrollment rates of Virginians and corresponding admission standards.
    • The net cost to students, including full tuition and fee costs, financial aid eligibility, and the resulting student loan debt, for the full two- or four-year course of study.
    • Graduation rates and the pace of completion.
    • Job placement success and earnings of graduates, where possible by degree/credential program.
    • Internship and other work-experience opportunities, including “pipeline” programs and other partnerships with businesses that lead to employment opportunities.
    • Where applicable, the research and research translation activities of the institution and opportunities for student participation.

A lot goes into these policies because we expect a lot from our elected officials. The more you know the better, especially when it comes to topics that you care about. Have you made your plan for November 7th? Have you decided what you expect from our governor? If not, click the button below to make your plan to vote!