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has said that he believes tuition should not rise faster than the
CPI (Consumer Price Index). That is not exactly encouraging.”
On the other hand, some college administrators argue
that the existence of the signed management agreements
will make the deal difficult to violate. For that reason, the
universities and the governor’s office are working to get the
first management agreements approved this December, before
Warner leaves office.
The tuition/state funding tradeoff is only part of the
structural change, however. The other major component
involves a turnover of operational authority from the state to
campus administrations. Once a management agreement is
approved for a particular campus, college officials will assume
control over areas such as construction, purchasing and
personnel.
This part of the deal, in fact, was central to the coalition
betweenWarner, a former tech tycoon, and the Republican
leadership in the legislature. “You had a Democratic governor
who wanted the institutions to be more entrepreneurial,”
said Peter Blake, the state deputy education secretary for
higher education. “And you had a legislature concerned
about unnecessary bureaucracy and local autonomy. It all
made for an interesting constellation of political interests and
motivations, and resulted in widespread support.”
Campus administrators also delight at the idea of
controlling their operations. Many have war stories about their
bureaucratic fights with Richmond. One describes sending
staffers on the long drive to Richmond every two weeks to
pick up payroll checks because the state would not allow the
institutions to process payroll checks themselves. Another
recalls weary negotiations with a state agency over howmany
windows would be allowed in a new building.
The autonomy moves will
also save money, but most
agree that the amounts will be
modest. “When you get the
state government involved in
every decision, it slows things
down and adds costs. You will
achieve greater efficiency by
turning a job over to campus
administrators,” remarked
Finance Secretary Bennett. “At
the same time, the universities
will create bureaucracies to
handle the jobs that were being
done in Richmond. The real dollar savings is probably not
great.”
For all the hoopla surrounding restructuring, however,
the benefits will not be extended evenly across Virginia’s
institutions. The greatest autonomies will be extended to
UVA, Virginia Tech, andWilliam andMary—the state’s
acknowledged “TopThree.”
The plan’s structure, in fact, almost guarantees that
outcome. It creates three levels of participation, and Levels I
and II entitle schools only to limited autonomies and do not
require management agreements.
To qualify for a Level III application, a campus must
demonstrate broad competence in managing campus
operations or carry an AA-bond rating. Only then will it be
allowed to develop a management agreement.
At present, only the
top three meet those
qualifications, so other
institutions must settle
for Levels I or II. This
situation contains some
ironies. Campuses
such as George Mason
University in northern
Virginia and Virginia
Commonwealth
University in Richmond
now educate far more
students than any of
the top three and have
become substantial
institutions in their own
right.
Virginia
Commonwealth, for
example, sprawls over a
large part of downtown
Richmond, with 29,000
students in 15 schools
and one college. It
operates one of the
largest medical research
centers in the state,
attracted $185 million
in sponsored research
William and Mary President Timothy X. Sullivan
supports the restructuring plan but would have
preferred “charter” status for his college.
In spring 2004, three of the
state’s leading institutions
offered to accept a cut in
financial support from the
state in exchange for their
freedom to raise tuition and
conduct their own affairs.
Tom Cogill for CrossTalk
State Goals
U
nder Virginia’s restructuring plan, state colleges and
universities will be required to work toward meeting
11 state goals in return for greater campus autonomy.
Here are the eleven goals:
• Provide access to higher education for all citizens of
Virginia, including underrepresented populations.
• Ensure that higher education remains affordable regard-
less of family income.
• Offer a curriculum that addresses Virginia’s needs for
sufficient graduates in particular shortage areas.
• Maintain high academic standards.
• Improve student retention and raise graduation rates.
• Allow smooth transition for students moving from two-
year to four-year institutions.
• Stimulate economic development of Virginia.
• Increase externally funded research and facilitate tech-
nology transfers.
• Aid elementary and secondary schools to improve stu-
dent achievement.
• Prepare six-year financial plans for submission to the
state.
• Increase campus management efficiency and economy.