The Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund (HEETF) was established in 1986 by the General Assembly to provide supplemental funding to upgrade equipment needed for instruction and research. At that time, a large infusion of equipment was needed in a short period of time, and the state could not afford to pay for it directly from operating appropriations. In 1999, the General Assembly removed the requirement for leases from the equipment leasing program, now referred to as the Equipment Program. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) shares administrative responsibility for the program with the Virginia College Building Authority (VCBA) and the Department of Treasury.
The financing for the Trust Fund is handled by the Department of the Treasury which serves as staff to the VCBA. The Authority issues revenue bonds with a final maturity of up to seven years. Personal computers and other shorter-lived equipment may be surplussed at three years. The term of the bonds is matched to the useful life of most eligible equipment to maximize the leveraging effect of debt financing. Institutions purchase equipment worth $500 or greater using their operating funds and are reimbursed by the Trust Fund. The General Assembly appropriates funds to the Treasury Board for the payment of the debt service on the bonds.
While the financing of the Trust Fund is handled by the VCBA and bond counselors, SCHEV recommends how it is to be distributed among institutions based on identified equipment needs. The Council’s recommendation is then communicated to the Governor and the General Assembly for consideration in the budget process. The General Assembly makes the final decision on dollar allocations. For the first several years, Trust Fund allocations were based on addressing discipline-specific equipment deficiencies. After these initial allocations, general equipment obsolescence became the focus. Since 1996, the Trust Fund has been used to accomplish the following goals:
- Significantly reduce the amount of obsolete technology and equipment.
- Provide every student with access to an appropriate level of information and technology.
- Establish a statewide network that supports and encourages sharing and cooperation.
- Provide every faculty member with appropriate equipment and training to use technology in support of teaching and learning.
- Support faculty in the introduction of new ways of instruction and learning, provide courses customized to student needs and take advantage of distance-learning opportunities.
- Install high quality, easy-access, network-deliverable student support services, such as transcripts, grades, class scheduling and account balance and payment information.
- Install management information systems that are flexible and directly accessible to users to help support administrative restructuring and cost-containment.