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The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011 (HEOA) focuses on three primary themes to fulfill its goals of fueling strong economic growth in the Commonwealth and preparing Virginians for top job opportunities in the knowledge-driven economy of the 21st century:

Economic Opportunity and Impact

  • Provides a roadmap for achieving an additional 100,000 undergraduate degrees from the Commonwealth's two-year and four-year institutions between 2011 and 2025. Strategies for meeting this goal include:
    • Increasing enrollment of in-state students in all public institutions in the Commonwealth
    • Improving graduation and retention rates
    • Increasing degree completion for Virginia residents who have partial degree credit
  • Emphasizes additional degree attainment in the science, technology, engineering, math, and healthcare (STEM-H) fields which are projected to be the leading industries in the 21st century, and provides for the creation of not-for-profit public/private partnerships.

Reform-Based Investment

  • Seeks to expand degree opportunities to more citizens through more creative and cost effective ways. Institutions are required to submit six-year plans that highlight institutional priorities and strategies for achieving the HEOA objectives including but not limited to:
    • Year-round use of physical facilities and instructional resources
    • Technology-enhanced instruction
    • Resource-sharing across institutions
    • Innovative degree paths
    • Operational efficiency efforts
  • Provides a model for a new funding framework based on four components:
    • Basic operations and instruction
    • Enrollment growth funding
    • Need-based financial aid
    • Financial incentives to promote innovation and economic development efforts
  • Establishes a comprehensive six-year planning process to assist with the implementation of the HEOA, and seeks to improve collaboration among public institutions across the Commonwealth.
  • Establishes the Higher Education Advisory Committee (HEAC) to develop performance criteria for measuring financial incentives, the methodology for how state funding should follow students, economic opportunity metrics to assess degree programs, and opportunities for additional cost-savings and efficiency reforms.

Affordable Access

  • Provides for enrollment-based funding designed to increase access for qualified Virginia students at public and private institutions.
  • Seeks to improve the affordability of higher education by:
    • Implementing a funding policy/model that will provide for more stable and predictable levels of state support
    • Developing need-based financial aid programs that provide assistance to students from low-income and middle-income families
    • Creating a Revenue Stabilization Fund/Rainy Day Fund to offset future revenue shortfalls