Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox introduced legislation Friday to create partnership performance agreements between Virginia and individual public colleges and universities. The agreements will include mutual commitments by the Commonwealth and individual higher education institutions on initiatives to increase the talent pipeline and economic growth, improve college access and affordability for Virginians, and measure and reward college performance based on student outcomes.
“This legislation—the first bill I have patroned as Speaker—is a vital vehicle for making college affordable for all Virginians and for tapping the full potential of our top-ranked higher education system as an engine of talent development and economic growth. It recognizes the different missions and capabilities of our public colleges and universities and the different strengths they bring in achieving our economic goals, said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “These agreements will be the lynchpin of partnerships that I believe have the ability to transform our Commonwealth. If business, higher education, and state government work together as partners, we will achieve many more big economic development wins, and thousands more young Virginians will find great jobs without having to leave the state.”
“These partnership agreements are all about access to marketable degrees, workplace experiences, and good jobs,” commented Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), patron of similar legislation in the Senate. “By making reliable investments tied to performance, we can create affordable pathways from our top-ranked college classrooms and labs, to highly valuable internships, to great first jobs, to rewarding careers—and, ultimately, to fulfilling lives.”
Speaker Cox proposed new partnerships between the Commonwealth, colleges, and job-creating businesses last September in a speech to the GO Virginia Foundation Board and an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The legislation amends the bipartisan “Top Jobs Act” (patroned by Delegate Cox in 2011) to establish a process for negotiation of partnership performance agreements by representatives of the Legislative and Executive Branches and individual colleges and universities.
“We applaud the Speaker’s leadership and foresight,” said G. Gilmer Minor III, chairman of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council. “His remarks this fall struck a chord with business and higher education leaders, and we are ready to help. We have been making the rounds and hear only strong bipartisan support for the idea of institutional partnership performance agreements.”
“If we needed more evidence that higher education is Virginia’s chief competitive advantage in attracting job-creating investments, we certainly received it with Amazon’s decision to come here despite more lucrative offers elsewhere,” noted Nancy Howell Agee, president and chief executive officer of Carilion Clinic. “The legislation offered by Speaker Cox and Senator Dunnavant will make sure we’re all working together and investing where it will have the greatest return for students and for our Commonwealth.”
“Our talent pipeline sets Virginia apart,” said Barry DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a product of forward-looking reforms like this one by Speaker Cox and Senator Dunnavant and the bipartisan commitment to business-higher education collaboration that we have seen in the Commonwealth over the years. This proposal will take that partnership to a new level.”
Under the proposed legislation, partnership agreements would spell out mutually dependent commitments by the colleges, the Commonwealth, and, in some cases, key business partners on priorities such as new high-demand degree programs, research and new business startups, and state and regional economic development initiatives. Partnership agreements also would address key student issues such as tuition, fees, and financial aid, internship opportunities, and enrollment of Virginia resident students. Institutional funding and managerial flexibility would be tied to performance. Participating colleges would be able to submit partnership performance agreement proposals this spring or summer, resulting in negotiations that could lead to individual agreements approved by the and General Assembly and Governor in the biennial budget to be addressed in early 2020. The text of the bill is available here.