House of Delegates Passes Bills to Make College More Affordable

The House of Delegates passed two bills today aimed at making college more affordable in Virginia. House Bill 1897 (Cox) puts a cap on the athletic fees that Virginia colleges and universities can charge students. House Bill 1895 (Cox) gives small and medium-sized Virginia schools additional flexibility to cut wasteful spending and reduces burdensome reporting requirements. Speaking about the legislation, Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said, “Virginia students now borrow more than a billion dollars every year to pay for education. This legislation will help ensure that those academic costs are paying for academics and that we aren’t pricing students out of college with unaffordable athletic fees. As a former basketball and baseball coach, I understand the value of athletic programs, but I also see the skyrocketing amount of student debt taken on by today’s college students. This legislation will cap athletic fees, generating meaningful cost savings for students and their families.”

Delegate Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico) said, “Giving small and medium-sized schools additional flexibility to improve operating efficiencies makes sense for the schools and makes sense for students. This is flexibility we already have given our larger schools and they have proven its value in holding down costs. House Bill 1895 would allow some of the same flexibility we now give to Level III schools to Level II schools - George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, Virginia Military Institute and all community colleges. Letting Virginia universities cut wasteful spending so they can hold down tuition costs is another step to best prepare our university graduates for the 21st century job market and expand economic growth in our Commonwealth for years to come.”

Background on School Levels from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia:

Institutions are classified into one of three levels of financial and administrative operational authority. All institutions enter Level I authority as a result of the Boards of Visitors resolution in 2005. Level I institutions receive minimum operational authority.

Level II criteria were established by the 2008 General Assembly. Level II institutions receive additional authority in two of three areas – capital outlay, information technology, and procurement. Institutions enter Level II through a “memorandum of understanding” with the Governor and, respective cabinet Secretaries. Memoranda of understanding were signed with George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, and Virginia Military Institute in 2008. Unlike Level III institutions, the Memoranda of understanding does not grant Level II institutions authority to issue debt or withdrawal from any risk management or insurance programs.

The highest level of financial and administrative operational authority is granted to a select group of institutions through a “management agreement” between the institution’s Board of Visitors, the Governor, and the General Assembly. Level III institutions have operational authority in the areas of capital outlay, information technology, procurement, human resources, and finance. The College of William and Mary, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Tech signed management agreements in 2005 which were approved by the 2006 General Assembly. Virginia Commonwealth University’s management agreement was approved by the 2008 General Assembly.