Overview of Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011
Governor Robert McDonnell established the “Governor’s Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation and Investment” formed through Executive Order No. 9 in March, 2010, shortly after his inauguration the preceding January. The Commission began meetings in July 2010 and issued an interim report in December 2010. The Higher Education Opportunity Act was passed by the 2011 General Assembly and is based on the Commission’s recommendation in their interim report. The Act is also known as the Top Jobs Act or TJ21.
The purpose of the Act was to significantly increase college attainment with a goal of 100,000 new undergraduate degrees by 2025. The Act also sought to address basic operational and instructional funding, per-student enrollment funding, need-based financial aid, targeted economic and innovation incentives, a higher education “Rainy Day” fund, institutional six-year plans, and increasing high demand degrees through public-private partnerships. As the coordinating body for the Commonwealth’s institutions of higher education, SCHEV was instrumental in implementing policies to achieve these goals.
Much of this work was informed by the Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act of 2005 (Restructuring Act) which provided public colleges and universities with more operational and administrative autonomy in exchange for a renewed commitment to their public missions.