Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018 Legislative Priorities & Perspectives

The opening gavel falls today for the 2018 session of the Virginia General Assembly. The session will be different from those of recent years as the majority of the House of Delegates members have four or fewer years of government experience, and a new governor and lieutenant governor will be sworn into office this weekend. This issue of the Chancellor’s Statewide Syllabus explores the priorities of Virginia’s Community Colleges in the legislative session, and the potential those priorities carry for the people our colleges serve.

 Click the Legislative Agenda Document for an overview of the VCCS’s 2018 priorities.

 Improving Transfer Pathways without Loss of Credits 

By Sharon Morrissey, vice chancellor, academic services and research, Virginia’s Community Colleges

Virginia’s community colleges transferred more than 14,000 students to public and private universities in 2014-15. Our transfer programs are designed to save students time and money toward completion of baccalaureate degrees. Unfortunately, the transfer process is not always seamless for our students. The recent Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) study of VCCS found that transfer students earn bachelor’s degrees at lower rates and accumulate more credits than do native four-year students at the same university.          

Legislators are taking notice. The 2017 General Assembly enacted two important bills that hold promise for VCCS students. SB 1234 requires the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SHEV) to develop a “Passport” transfer program with uniform standards and competencies for general education courses guaranteed to transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions as fulfillment of a lower division general education requirement. HB 1662 requires SCHEV to establish a policy for granting undergraduate general education course credit to any entering student who has successfully completed a dual enrollment course. SCHEV has an advisory committee of academic leaders working on policies to support these two bills.

The JLARC report, released in September 2017, included a comprehensive study of dual enrollment and transfer and included several recommendations to improve the transfer process. The 2018 General Assembly seems poised to take these recommendations to the next level, with several proposed bills related to establishing standards for dual enrollment quality, redesigning the General Education Certificate to include a 15-hour guaranteed Passport Program, developing program maps for transfer pathways, and creating an online transfer portal to guide and support students in the transfer process.

If you have a chance to speak to legislators in the upcoming weeks, please thank them for the work they are doing to make the transfer process more consistent and efficient for Virginia’s community college students.

Virginia can scale up its biggest success story of 2017 
By Craig Herndon, vice chancellor, workforce development services, Virginia’s Community Colleges

You may have heard about Virginia’s Workforce Credentials Grant, an innovative and relatively new funding source that helps individuals earn workforce certifications and licenses in high-demand fields – or what we now call FastForward credentials. Thanks to those grants, thousands of people are training at Virginia’s Community Colleges for credentials that nearby businesses say are in high demand.

Student demand exhausted those grants at the beginning of December. The state’s initial investment of $12.5 million in this pay-for-performance program helped Virginians earn more than 7,000 credentials since the program began less than 18 months ago. Virginia’s Community Colleges, in partnership with businesses across the commonwealth, are now asking lawmakers to increase its annual allocation up to $15 million each year of the state’s new two-year budget. 

So, what makes this funding request stand apart from the hundreds facing lawmakers during the 2018 General Assembly?

First, ours is a unique pay-for-performance program, meaning colleges are paid only after a student completes an eligible training program and earns a high-demand credential. 

Second, the grants carry bipartisan support. Every state senator and nearly every state delegate voted for the creation of this program in 2016, because more trained and skilled Virginians benefit business and the commonwealth’s economic bottom line.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, these credentials are elevating lives through better-paying careers. Grant-supported students are, on average, 36 years old and living on a median annual wage of less than $22,000. The credentials they earn typically qualify them for careers with starting wages that would increase their take-home pay by 50%, or more.

Garnering more grant resources in 2018 means that even more Virginians can experience the life-changing effects we saw in 2017 for students like Andrea Davis, Kouri Tweedy, and Nate Humphrey.'

Laura Osberger

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