by Mike Higgins
state delegates representing local jurisdictions, two Republicans
and a Democrat, agree on one thing: the University should not be
forced to grow rapidly, despite the upcoming bulge in the state's
Dels. Mitchell Van Yahres, D-57th; Rob Bell, R-58th; and Steven
Landes, R-25th, spoke Friday at the University's annual Legislative
Forum, which leads up to the Wednesday’s convening of the
state General Assembly. State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-25th, did not
attend after a minor auto accident left his car disabled. He was
Mark Warner's proposed tax increases dominated the forum discussion,
as they are expected to dominate the General Assembly itself. In
his proposed budget, Warner backs $140 million in new spending for
higher education, but predicates that spending on passage of his
public colleges and universities would welcome any increase. The
State Council of Higher Education for Virginia forecasts that an
additional 60,000 students will enter state schools between 2000
coming enrollment boom has led to speculation about the University's
future growth. Last year, the Board of Visitors, which by law is
charged with setting enrollment levels, approved relatively modest
undergraduate enrollment increases of 450 students by fall 2007.
The question is, will the state ask the University to grow even
— who earned undergraduate and law degrees from U.Va. —
noted that other state universities would welcome growth, and planted
himself firmly in the slow-growth camp. "I would not like to
see U.Va. go the way of Ohio State," he said. "I would
not like to see U.Va. go the way of Virginia Tech. Let George Mason
or Christopher Newport grow as much as they want."
Yahres, a former Charlottesville city councilman and mayor, agreed.
He pointed to the pressure the University's growth puts on surrounding
neighborhoods. "The University has to be cognizant of what
is going on in the community as well," he said.
Yahres and Landes both agreed that community colleges could absorb
some of the growth. Landes also called for new focus on distance-learning
programs and suggested that Virginia's private colleges might be
able to take some additional students.
legislators declined to speculate about the prospects of a package
of decentralization proposals being advanced by U.Va., William &
Mary and Virginia Tech, saying that they had not yet seen the legislation.
discussion of Warner's tax proposals was similarly unclear. Virtually
no one expects that the plans proposed by Warner, a Democrat, will
pass unaltered through the Republican-dominated General Assembly.
there are disagreements even among state Republicans, Van Yahres
said, with senators generally more favorably disposed toward tax
increases than Republican delegates. The intra-party struggle could
lead to an extension of this year's 60-day session or even a second
session, he predicted.
the governor's $1.2 billion in tax increases fails to pass, it is
unclear what would happen to the additional $140 million in higher
education spending Warner proposed.
the forum, Landes, who chairs the House Republican caucus, said,
"It will be up to the House Finance Committee." Even without
tax increases, Landes said he expects economic growth to provide
some additional revenues. "If the revenue is there, higher
education will get a part of it. If not, we'll have to take a look
However, he cautioned, "In my opinion, K-12 is a higher priority
than higher education."
also speaking after the forum, said he would seek other ways to
make up for the $140 million if the governor's tax increases failed.