Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Bob-O-Meter

Award 100,000 additional degrees

McDonnell's plan for higher education includes "100,000 additional Associates and Bachelors' Degrees over the next 15 years."


Sources:

release, pg. 2

Subjects: Education

Updates

Promise is on course

While running for governor in 2009, Bob McDonnell vowed to put Virginia colleges on a path to awarding 100,000 additional associate and bachelor degrees to in-state students over the next 15 years.

We examined this promise early last year and found that McDonnell was off to a good start. The General Assembly in 2011 passed a series of initiatives to reach the 100,000 additional degrees by raising enrollment of Virginia students in college, improving graduation and retention rates and increasing the availability of financial aid to middle and low-income students.

But there was a problem in assessing the progress on the pledge: Enrollment projections by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia only went through the 2017-2018 school year -- just halfway into the 15-year timeline the governor set. So we rated this a promise that's "In the Works" and said we'd take another look before McDonnell last day in office -- which will be this Saturday.

Here's an update. Two things have changed since our last writing.

For starters, SCHEV has extended its enrollment projections to the 2019-20 school year, making it easier to analyze whether McDonnell's promise is on course.

The second thing is that the McDonnell administration said our initial story assumed all of the 100,000 promised degrees would be awarded by public colleges when, in fact, the governor's pledge encompassed public and private schools. We found that to be a reasonable point; McDonnell's policy paper making the vow did not specify one type of college or the other.

So, for the purpose of this Bob-O-Meter, we're using SCHEV's 2019-20 enrollment projections for public and private colleges.

Before getting to the bottom line, there's an important term to define. McDonnell's enrollment initiative called for colleges to award 100,000 "cumulative additional" bachelor's and associate's degrees. Let's look at what that "cumulative additional" estimate means:

Virginia awarded 48,400 such degrees during the 2010-11 school year, according to SCHEV. That's the starting point for McDonnell's count. If the same number of degrees was awarded during the 2024-25 school year, the cumulative growth would be zero.

McDonnell wants to ensure that the number graduates continues to rise each year so that over the 14-year by period, a total of 100,000 more degrees will have been awarded than if the number remained flat from the starting point.

To get there, the number of graduates would have to increase by an average of 1.8 percent every year so that in 2024-25, Virginia would be awarding about 62,300 degrees.

Virginia is expected to easily surpass that goal. The latest SCHEV projections predict a 3 percent average annual increase in bachelors and associated degrees from 2010 to 2020. SCHEV projects 63,205 of the degrees be awarded during the 2019-20 school year.

If you add all the extra diplomas that would be awarded each school year from 2010-11 through 2019-20, SCHEV estimates that 93,135 cumulative additional degrees will have been conferred. In other words, Virginia will be 93 percent of the way towards meeting McDonnell's goal with five years left to go.

SCHEV officials stress that their projections are not guarantees. In a January 2013 report, they noted students are finding it more difficult to pay for college and that the number of Virginia's high school graduates has fallen in recent years. Spokeswoman Kristen Nelson said the council will release a report this month showing "there is a softening in (college) enrollment, but that we still are on track to meet the approved enrollment and degree projections and remain confident that we will achieve the 100,000 goal by 2025."

To help colleges expand, the General Assembly has increased higher education spending by about $250 million during McDonnell's term.

Tod Massa, the director of policy research and data warehousing at SCHEV, told us when we first  examined this pledge that McDonnell's higher education initiatives have been a "significant factor" in propelling the state towards its degree goals. We asked him whether the state could have reached the goal without the new laws. "I really don't know, I think possibly," he said.

The bottom line is that the state is clearly on track to reach its 100,000 "cumulative additional" degrees by 2025. So we rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

McDonnell for Governor via Project Vote Smart, "Affordable Access: Educating Virginians for top jobs and incomes in the knowledge-based economy," accessed Nov. 7, 2012.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, degree projections, accessed Jan. 3, 3014.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "Agenda Book,", page TF35-TF40, Sept. 16-17, 2013.

E-mails from Kirsten Nelson, spokeswoman for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Dec. 18, 2013 and Jan. 2, 2013.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "2013-2014 tuition and fees at Virginia's state-supported colleges and universities," July 2013.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "Higher Education Opportunity Act Analysis of Degree Targets," May 21, 2012.

Tod Massa, director of policy research and data warehousing at SCHEV, blog post on the council's September 2013 meeting.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell ceremonially signs 'Top Jobs' higher education reform legislation," June 16, 2011.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, "Statement on Gov. Bob McDonnell on launch of new Grow by Degrees higher education policy initiatives," Sept. 5, 2013.

Legislative Information System "Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act," 2011.

Bob McDonnell's op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Asking for your vote: Bob McDonnell," Oct. 18, 2009.

Bob McDonnell's op-ed in The Washington Post, "By Robert F. McDonnell: My promises to northern Virginia," Sept. 27, 2009.

PolitiFact Virginia, "Award 100,000 additional degrees," Jan. 18, 2013.

Long-range plan has begun



Bob McDonnell said during his 2009 gubernatorial campaign that too few Virginians were going to college and getting skills to compete for jobs.

McDonnell pledged he would put Virginia on a path to award "100,000 additional associate's and bachelor's degrees over the next 15 years.”

Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for the governor, said McDonnell has taken long strides to meet that goal.

Caldwell pointed to the 2011 passage of the governor's "Top Jobs” legislation. The measure laid out a series of initiatives to reach the 100,000 additional degrees by raising enrollment of Virginia students in college, improving graduation and retention rates and increasing the availability of financial aid to middle and low-income students.

The law sets a goal of awarding 100,000 "cumulative additional” bachelor's and associate college degrees from public institutions between 2011 and 2025.  Let's discuss what that figure means.

Virginia awarded 42,825 such degrees during the 2010-11 school year, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. That's the starting point for McDonnell's count. If the same number of degrees was awarded during the 2024-25 school year, the cumulative growth would be zero.

McDonnell wants to ensure that the number graduates continues to rise each year so that over the 14-year by period, a total of 100,000 more degrees will have been awarded than if the number remained flat from the starting point.

To get there, the number of graduates would have to increase by an average of 2.6 percent every year so that in 2024-25, Virginia would be awarding about 61,200 degrees.

That seems like an attainable goal. Over the first 10 school years of this century, the number of degrees increased by an average of about 4 percent a year.

On its website, SCHEV projects statewide degree awards based on estimates from each state public university and college. The forecast, which goes through 2017-18, predicts average annual growth at 1.5 percent. Tod Massa, the director of policy, research and data warehousing at SCHEV, said degree projections from colleges tend to be conservative.

If we use that projection, then awards would have to increase by an average of 3.7 percent each year between 2018-19 and 2024-25 for Virginia to reach its 100,000 cumulative degree goal. That expanded pace would still fall below Virginia's average for the first 10 school years of the century.

Massa called the higher education law a "significant factor” in propelling Virginia toward its degrees goal and that additional state money for colleges in recent years is also helping by defraying some tuition costs. Last winter, the General Assembly and McDonnell approved a $150 million increase in state funding for higher education over the two-year budget cycle that started July 1. That's in addition to a $97 million boost for higher education that came during the budget year that ended July 30, 2012.

We wondered if the state would be on a path to reach those 100,000 degrees even without the governor's Top Jobs law.  "I really don't know, I think possibly,” Massa said.

But SCHEV officials also say that even with governor's program, there's no guarantee that the state will reach that goal 15 years from now.

In a Jan. 13 report, SCHEV officials identified hurdles on the path to 100,000 more degrees. Although the state has dedicated more overall  funding to higher education in the past two years, SCHEV said many students are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for college. In addition, the number of Virginia's high school graduates has dropped from 87,822 in 2008-2009 to 85,941 in 2011-2012 and isn't expected to return to its high-water mark until 2016-2017.

And, as Massa told us, there's economic uncertainty in projections extending to 2025. For example, a good economy at some point in the future could lead to more people opting for jobs before completing their college education, which would hamper the state's efforts to reach its degree completion goal.

The Council of Higher Education on Jan. 15 asked SCHEV to come up with up with new enrollment projections and degree estimates to ascertain whether the state is on track to meet its goal.

Like the council, we'd also like to have more information before stating whether Virginia is on a path to awarding 100,000 more degrees by 2025. So we'll rate McDonnell's campaign pledge In the Works.

 

Sources:

Bob McDonnell for Governor, "Affordable access: Educating Virginians for top jobs and incomes in the knowledge-based economy,” accessed November 9, 2012.

E-mails from Jeff Caldwell, spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, Nov. 8-9, 2012.

Governor Bob McDonnell,"Governor's higher education passes key votes,” February 2, 2011.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "2012-2013 tuition and fees at Virginia"s state-supported colleges and universities,”July 2012.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "2011-2012 tuition and fees at Virginia"s state supported colleges and universities,” July 2011.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "Higher Education Opportunity Act analysis of degree targets,”May 21, 2012.

Interview with Kirsten Nelson, spokesman for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, November 8-9, 2012.

E-mails from Kirsten Nelson, Nov. 8-9, 2012.

Interviews with Tod Massa, the director of policy research and data warehousing at SCHEV, Nov. 16, 2012 and Jan. 16, 2013.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, report on cumulative college degree projections, accessed Nov. 9. 2012.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "Agenda Book,” page 37-40. Jan. 14-15, 2013.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Enrollment must grow to meet Va. degree goal,” Jan. 16, 2013.

Legislative Information Service, "H.B. 2510: The Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011,” April 6, 2011.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "Higher Education Opportunity Act,”  accessed Nov. 7, 2012.

State Council of HIgher Education for Virginia, "Higher Education Opportunity Act analysis of degree targets,” May 21, 2012.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia,"Enrollment 2001-2010, Projections and Degree estimates, 2011-12 -- 2017-18,” Sept. 20, 2011.

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, "Degree projections,” accessed Nov. 21, 2012.

Governor Bob McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell ceremonially signs ‘top jobs" higher education reform legislation,” June 16, 2011.