Recent attacks on a Council staff report advising the Governor and General Assembly about "restructuring" Virginia higher education seriously distort the document. Contrary to the characterizations offered, the report does not call upon colleges and universities to "do more with less." Indeed, it does not even call for them to do more with the same amount of money.
What the report does recommend is that Virginia's major research universities devote more time to teaching. I think this is a fair and justifiable recommendation. It is one that the Council staff would make even if Virginia were awash in money. It is a recommendation we make with some urgency in order to control tuition increases at our colleges and universities.
As Secretary Dyke has said, it's time for a "reality check" like that going on throughout corporate America. Major corporations are realizing that they cannot continue to flourish without serious, substantive change -- without doing their work differently so they can do it better.
The report recommends that Virginia husband its scarce resources for faculty salary increases and support the expenses associated with structural change: technology, instructional equipment, curriculum design, and so on. It also recommends that additional faculty are needed in the community colleges if they are to absorb more students. Community college faculty already teach five or more courses each semester. We seriously doubt that they can stay current in their teaching fields with such responsibilities.
The report recommends that Virginia's comprehensive universities--those that do not award doctoral degrees--need more staff in order to take more students, although we think this is a somewhat less urgent need than that in the community colleges.
The report recommends that the doctoral institutions can take a limited number of additional students in the next biennium without adding faculty. This recommendation is based upon an analysis of faculty activity, resources appropriated to each institution, and the economies of scale possible because of their size. The report proposes that enrollment increases for 1994-96 would be negotiated with each doctoral institution depending upon the factors I have just listed.
Serving Virginians by teaching more effectively responds to the priorities of the Commonwealth. We are convinced that different approaches to teaching is not only possible in Virginia's colleges and universities but desirable in a changing world. We are further convinced that a better balance in some institutions between the critically important activities of research and teaching will improve Virginia higher education.
This report is another step in a discussion that began with publication of "The Case for Change" by the Virginia Commission on the University of the 21st Century. The call for general change is easy. The call for specific change is very difficult. We understand the discomfort we have caused and have done so only because our colleges and universities cannot continue with business as usual. The world is changing faster than we are.
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