With the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election over, governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has the opportunity to tackle some of the difficulties in the Virginia higher education system.
Republican Ken Cuccinelli’s higher education agenda included affordability, economic growth, employability, accountability and a focus on STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
McAuliffe campaigned under a similar agenda, but unlike Cuccinelli, he put additional focus on minority education and student loan payments.
The CT spoke to Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), regarding what students can expect under McAuliffe’s education agenda and what problems the governor elect might run into while putting his plans into motion.
CT: What are some things you would like to see changed or enhanced in the higher education system in Virginia?
PB: There are some underlying issues that are always important. We are in an environment in which we need more well-educated Virginians than we’ve had in the past, and it is important to ensure education is both affordable and accessible. Those two points along with completion are really the key elements to a successful higher education system.
It also important to reach out to previously underrepresented Virginians in the higher education system to get them in and out the door with a level of added value.
CT: What can students and parents in the Virginia higher education system expect from McAuliffe’s term as governor?
PB: I think he is sitting on many of the right themes. He plans on making sure higher education is more affordable. There are a number of strategies he could use to do that. One is through sufficient taxpayer support to keep tuition costs down, the other is making financial aid a need-based process to ensure the people that need loans are actually getting them.
It is important for a student to achieve some form of post-secondary education that has value in the marketplace. When I say secondary education, I’m not just talking about bachelor’s degrees, and McAuliffe has placed a big emphasis on community college, which is very important.
Access is also a key part of his agenda. We need to make sure we are casting a wide enough net to bring more students into higher education. Terry is planning on reaching into a previously under-represented population like first- generation racial minorities by making data and access more available.
Veterans are another group McAuliffe has pinpointed. He wants to control the costs and support any veteran looking to further their education.
One area where he has focused actually fits right in with what VCU is working toward, innovation and research development.
CT: What do you see complicating McAuliffe’s objectives?
PB: There is not an idea of his that I don’t support. The challenge for him is going to be finding the right balance among all of these priorities. He’s got the right ideas, now it comes down to how is he going to pull all of them off.