Lawmakers back higher education
but cant agree on how to pay for it
By Matt Kelly
legislators agreed on several points at a student-sponsored forum
held Oct. 8 in the Newcomb Hall Theater, including that state
higher education funding will remain lean in the coming legislative
cant raise taxes for U.Va. when kindergarten through 12th
grade education is not funded, said Del. Robert B. Bell,
forum, sponsored by the Student Councils Legislative Affairs
Committee, drew a crowd that filled three-quarters of the theater.
state senator and six delegates touted the benefits of university
research and spoke of educations importance to the state
economy. But they did not promise students more state support,
noting they may face a $1 billion budget shortfall when the General
Assembly convenes in January.
L. Preston Bryant Jr., R-23rd District, said the state gave education
$500 million in new money from fiscal years 1996 to 2001, then
between fiscal years 2001 and 2004 removed about $305 million
of that from the general fund budget. Higher education absorbed
40 percent of all state agency cuts, he said.
has raised tuition and fees in the face of $52.2 million in state
funding cuts between 2001 and 2004 a 31 percent reduction
in the Universitys general fund appropriation.
and Del. R. Steven Landes, R-25th District, warned students that
legislators without universities in their districts are not always
sympathetic to higher-education issues. Bell said there is a debate
in Richmond about whether the state can afford to fund an elite
institution of higher education such as U.Va., or whether it should
pass those costs on to those who enroll.
a Bell-prompted show of hands, about a third of the audience voted
for tuition increases and a third voted for tax increases. No
one supported letting the University absorb more budget cuts.
John A. Cosgrove, R-78th District, said legislators should consider
redundancies and ask if some institutions offer too much.
have to ask, Are we being the best stewards of the money
for the taxpayer? he said.
Do we need
10 engineering schools or can we get by with six and put the extra
money into research?
said Virginia schools are still a bargain for out-of-state students,
especially when compared with what other states schools
would cost Virginia students.