Gilmore to schools:
Let's make a deal
ready for a new acronym. If Gov. James Gilmore's Blue
Ribbon Commission on Higher Education has its way, there will
be a lot of talk about "IPAs" from now on in Virginia
IPAs -- short for Institutional Performance Agreements -- highlight
the commission's report, presented Feb. 3 in Richmond. Essentially,
they are six-year agreements between state-supported schools and
the state itself, spelling out each institution's goals, plans
and budgetary needs for the period. In return, the state pledges
how much money it will provide to the schools over the period,
including a base budget amount and additional funds based upon
the school's measured performance.
the measures may be a statewide examination of each undergraduate's
"core competency" in each of six areas: written communication,
mathematical analysis, scientific literacy, critical thinking,
oral communication and technology. Other measures that could affect
funding may include managerial efficiency, use of technology,
success in attracting federal and private funding, maintaining
affordable tuition rates, and in-state enrollment.
link to all 73 of the commission's recommenda-
tions is posted on the State Governmental Relations
Office web page, http://
report concludes 15 months of study by the 39-member commission.
It contains 73 recommendations, which were included in Gilmore's
proposed two-year budget plan. Legislators will take their first
votes on them Feb. 20, when each house must act on its own version
of the budget bill.
news reports, lawmakers of both parties have expressed skepticism.
Del. Leo Waldrup, R-Virginia Beach, said future funding is too
unpredictable to enter into long-term agreements that cannot,
by law, be binding upon future governors and legislatures. Del.
Anne G. "Panny" Rhodes, R-Richmond, questioned whether
the current system needs overhauling. Del. J. Paul Council Jr.,
D-Southampton, fears the executive branch may be seeking to usurp
the power of the legislature in setting budgetary policy.
Alan A. Diamondstein, D-Newport News, said the timing for the
proposals may be off, and that the state should first focus on
improving institutions' base budgets before implementing performance-based
funding. Now, he said, "we are nowhere near an appropriate
level of funding for our universities."
president John T. Casteen III took a guardedly optimistic approach.
"We think [the IPAs] can work," he said, "especially
so, if the state follows through on restoring the base budget,
which has not had attention since 1990," when a recession
forced statewide cuts in higher education budgets.
approved by the General Assembly
and signed into law by Gilmore, the first IPAs could begin to
take shape as soon as this summer. Already, Vice President for
Management and Budget Colette Sheehey is beginning to assemble
a team to prepare the first draft of U.Va.'s IPA, which could
be due as early as July 1.
to the report, each institution's proposal must be approved by
its board of visitors and forwarded to the State Council of Higher
Education for Virginia, which will review it, comment and forward
it to the governor.
governor will then review the agreement and negotiate changes
before submitting it, alongside his budget recommendations, to
the legislature, which will have the ability to approve, modify
or reject the agreement. While acknowledging that many of the
benefits of a college education are not measurable, Casteen said,
"The state's target is management, whose results often are
IPAs were not the commission's only recommendations.
panel called for a continuation of the current tuition freeze
"until the cost of a public college education in Virginia
has recovered from the recession-related tuition increases of
the early 1990s and is again competitive nationally." Once
that is achieved, tuition would only be allowed to rise as fast
as inflation; requests to further boost tuition would only be
considered if all other revenue options -- including private money,
previously excluded from state budget discussions -- were deemed
exhausted. The commission also recommends allowing the public
to have input into decisions to raise tuition and fees.
proposal also recommends full funding what it called "true
need" in financial aid and the subsequent establishment of
merit-based scholarships, plus targeted scholarships for students
studying to fill "critical work force needs."
public should be allowed to view all course syllabi from the Internet,
the report said, and the state should compile and disseminate
comparative information about each institution's performance in
report outlines several suggested guidelines for boards of visitors,
including mandatory training sessions for new appointees. Boards
should take an active role in monitoring and combating grade inflation,
as well as faculty performance reviews, with a major emphasis
on undergraduate teaching.
commission also recommended that colleges and universities work
closely with the private sector to satisfy work force needs, as
well as to "make preparing new teachers for K-12 a priority."
enhance research, the report calls for the establishment of a
"technology growth fund" to provide competitive, matching
grants for federal and private research money. It calls on the
governor and legislature to fully fund the Eminent Scholars Program,
which provides additional incentives to attract top-notch faculty.