Republican Manifesto: Cut UVA and VT Public Funding

Monday, October 26, 2009

University of Virginia and Virginia Tech alumni: time for a moratorium on contributions. The endowments there are sufficient to self-fund almost all academic and research functions. Republican candidate Ron Villanueva called for universities to pay for their own programs in a public-private partnership; the state only maintaining public buildings.

"From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." Villanueva called for me to mention his 93% attendance at City Council meetings and Delegate Mathieson’s vote on SB 6009 (so that is done). But the call to cut public funding for the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech was his focus Saturday. Villanueva, making a headlong dash in his challenge for 21st HoD district seat currently held by Democrat Bobby Mathieson signaled the approach Republicans would take under Bob McDonnell’s leadership to make ends meet while implementing a no worry revenue platform. Arguing that ODU and Norfolk State receive only some 12% of the state higher education funding, he called for UVA and Tech to become self-reliant. That funding could then be redirected to Hampton Roads which he contrasted as a “jobs center.”

Villanueva called for a restructure of the funding formula for Virginia colleges and Universities. Specifically he cited the endowments at UVA and Virginia Tech. By reducing the public funding for these universities, those funds can go to Norfolk State and Old Dominion Universities "which always have to fight in the General Assembly for more money."
"UVA, Virginia Tech, they get the lion's share. You ask yourself: Can UVA afford to do their own programs? Yes they can, because they have some of the world’s largest endowments, privately. We can (have a) public private kind of partnership where we maintain the public buildings but they can raise their own money and we can invest a lot of that back here in Hampton Roads." - Villanueva
This was the second time in the week that he made this call. Additionally he cited his time on the Board of Visitors at Old Dominion University as a source of insight into such matters as academic salaries, which he stated were well above comparable pay in the private sector. Further, he argued that the traditional bricks and mortar institution is no longer relevant. He contrasted his position with Delegate Mathieson's call for more investment in research and development.
"…you have ECPI located here in Virginia Beach, great institution, they have campuses all throughout Virginia and North Carolina. They have the state’s largest private nursing school but yet their students aren’t eligible for tuition. What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with that?" - Villanueva
Challenged by more than one in the audience regarding his stance on the salaries paid professors at the universities, Villanueva stated that in the private sector you are usually paid for a 40 hour week, but that professors are paid for the number of classroom hours they teach. That generated further objections to his depiction of the work the classroom hours represent and a reminder from the floor that platform time requires research and preparation time; that professors fulfill other roles in the universities. Villanueva responded by saying " True, you're right, there's a schematic there, but you have to ask yourself: You pay a nursing instructor $100,000 at the university level…based on the amount of instruction they do. But if they are only teaching 10 hours, they need to invest more in the instruction time."
"We need to hold the line on tuition, we got to invest in technology and we have to get away from duplication of efforts…Does every university need some of the same degree programs? No." - Villanueva
At the same time that he called for a redistribution of public funding to NSU and ODU, he suggested that these institutions have wasteful, redundant programs that could be eliminated to achieve what he termed "scales of economy." You have to wonder if they have redundant programs, why other universities in Virginia should pay for them.

This Republican approach makes alumni support for their alma maters self-defeating. Alumni should immediately halt contributions because under this formula there is no incentive for support. Actually, this suggests spinning off the endowments from the universities so that alumni can control these funds they have voluntarily provided to enhance these institutions rather than pay for day to day operations. Further, the suggestion here is that those funds could allow the state to redirect public funding to needy private institutions like Regent University and ECPI.

So while Villanueva's math is creative (take the 93% attendance number) and he complains about a sole bill Delegate Mathieson supported in two years of sessions (the exception tests rather than proves the rule), its application to the higher education funding formula for the state of Virginia is a hint of the chilling effect Republican "Starve the Beast" approach will have on the state as a whole. Redistribute the wealth? Republicans are all for it when it serves their purposes. Revenues? No worry. Deplete the state's infrastructure selling off assets it took years to build and accumulate like there is no tomorrow; to hell with the future.

Cross posted at VBDems