My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday. It is the first of several columns that I have planned on Virginia’s lack of a university system for its four-year public universities.
The topic has interested me for a couple of years, after having been brought to my attention by one of the regular readers of my newspaper column. (I think it was this one.) But in order for me to tackle it, I had to spend a lot of time getting up to speed. And time has been in short supply for a while.
A class I took this semester finally afforded me the luxury of doing so. I had to write a research paper, on the topic of my choice. I chose this. (And now you know why blog posts have been so infrequent.)
Over the last few months, I’ve immersed myself in the details of the way things work here in Virginia as well as in two other states: North Carolina, which is one of the older university systems, and Maryland, which is one of the newer systems. I’ve spoken with a lot of folks involved in the process. My conclusion is simple: it’s time for Virginia to abandon its system of autonomous 4-year public institutions of higher education and embrace a university system.
We already have a model: Virginia’s community colleges are in a university system. They enjoy a statewide governing board, which provides oversight. They don’t compete against each other for resources. They have a universal minimum admissions policy.
One of the arguments I heard as I was conducting my research was that Virginia has such a wide variety among its 15 public 4-year institutions. We aren’t the only ones.
Those who favor continuing Virginia’s current system of autonomous four-year public institutions fear the homogenization of our institutions. I believe that fear is unfounded. North Carolina has successfully navigated such a system for years, allowing the universities to serve different populations on a cooperative basis.
There are so many different pieces to this, which I’ll be exploring in future columns. In the meantime, take a look at a couple of JLARC reports (441 and 443, available here) on higher education costs that I mentioned in my op-ed. Nearly every newspaper report I read about these two just looked at the toplines presented in the briefings and not the reports themselves. (And then look at this article today about student loan debt.)
How to run Virginia’s public 4-year institutions is a complicated one. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look at improving the process.
My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot.Follow @vpaige