HD3 - The Virginia Plan for Higher Education – Annual Report for 2019 (HJR 555, 2015)

Executive Summary:

The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, now in its sixth year, charts a course to make Virginia the best-educated state by 2030. Its pillars of access, affordability, success, innovation and prosperity form the statewide foundation upon which Virginia’s excellent colleges and universities serve their students, communities and the Commonwealth.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia developed The Virginia Plan as part of its statutory role to “advocate for and promote the development and operation of an educationally and economically sound, vigorous, progressive, and coordinated system of higher education in the Commonwealth." It provides a cohesive strategy to ensure that initiatives and programs work together efficiently while maintaining the independence, mission and culture of every institution. It also serves as a framework for the Council’s budget and policy considerations.

As the decade draws to a close, Virginia’s baccalaureate colleges and universities serve more students and graduate more students than ever before. Virginia’s community colleges remain vital engines of opportunity and growth despite falling enrollments since the end of the Great Recession.

During this period of sustained growth, however, policy makers and institutions must prepare for a potential economic slowdown, fewer high school graduates entering college, a changing student profile and more limited public resources. At the same time, colleges and universities must reach new students, many from different backgrounds, and prepare them for the challenges ahead. Academic leaders and faculty must look to the “future of work" to ensure students reap the rewards of their education and training and can lead prosperous lives despite the debt that many will incur.

Students of all ages and backgrounds need more information, advice and counseling so they can weigh the plethora of options that will guide their futures. In this new environment, policy makers and institutional leaders will make decisions based on an evolving and diversifying student body – one that is more likely to be financially independent, to be the first in the family to attend college, to be from a low-income household and more racially and ethnically diverse.

This annual report is the final one of this six-year strategic plan. The Council reviewed The Virginia Plan’s goals, strategies, measures and priority initiatives, and will make adjustments in early 2020. This report identifies past progress and future trends that the Commonwealth must address if it is to prosper and succeed in the next decade.

In the coming year, the updated Virginia Plan will continue to serve as a vision for the Commonwealth and a common framework. This framework is built on the premise that Council will serve as the steward of this visionary effort to become the best-educated state in the nation and that all partners in higher education must work together to promote a sound and vigorous Commonwealth.