At their meeting Tuesday night the Senate passed the Students in Support of Higher Education Funding Act, which sends an open letter from the Student Assembly to the Virginia General Assembly urging them to support higher education funding in the upcoming state budget.
The Students in Support of Higher Education Funding Act was introduced by Chairman of the Senate Will McConnell ’14 and William and Mary Virginia21 Chapter President Keenan Kelley ’14 in new business, but was moved to old business by unanimous consent in order to hold a vote.
The Virginia General Assembly is currently deliberating over the state’s higher education budget. Currently the Senate of Virginia has proposed a total of $42.3 million in undergraduate financial aid. The House of Delegates has proposed a total of $220 million for the state’s higher education system with $0 in extra undergraduate financial aid.
The letter passed by the Senate explains that the Senate’s financial aid recommendation would keep up with student need, however their overall higher education budget proposal of $182.6 million is not enough to meet the Commonwealth’s universities’ needs. The House’s budget proposal of $220 million for the higher education system is seen as being sufficient enough to meet the College’s and other universities’ need, although the House’s recommendation of $0 in additional financial aid would mean smaller financial aid packages for William and Mary students.
“This open letter to the general assembly of VA, basically outlines a pretty common stance by student bodies and student leaders across the state of Virginia,” Kelley said. “Basically, what this letter outlines is that there were good things in both proposals by the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia, yet they need to come together and come up with a combined budget that works for students.”
The Senate’s statement recommends that the House and the Senate combine proposals to develop a budget that is beneficial to all students and universities. The bill passed unanimously and this statement is the first to be sent to the General Assembly by a Student Assembly group from a Virginia university.
The letter is reprinted below.
The Students in Support of Higher Education Funding Act
WHEREAS, the Student Assembly of the College William and Mary voices the interests and concerns of the students,
WHEREAS, public funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia is essential to maintaining high quality education for all students at the College of William & Mary,
WHEREAS, the General Assembly is now considering two different budget proposals,
Now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that the Student Assembly of the College of William and Mary,
1. Adopts the following statement:
We, students of the College of William and Mary, commend the Virginia General Assembly for their continued work to support and advocate on behalf of students at the College of William and Mary. We applaud the work of the Virginia House of Delegates for proposing a total of $220 million for our Commonwealth’s higher education system. We further commend the Senate of Virginia for proposing $42.3 million in undergraduate financial aid, which will keep pace with rising student need.
We encourage both legislative bodies to find common ground that best reflects the needs of the families and students they represent. As representatives of the student body of William and Mary, we call upon the House of Delegates to adopt the Senate’s financial aid recommendation of $42.3 million in additional undergraduate financial aid funding. With the House of Delegate’s current proposal of $0 in additional undergraduate financial aid, students at William and Mary will receive smaller financial aid packages, and many may be unable to maintain their enrollment at the College.
Furthermore, we call upon the Senate of Virginia to adopt the House of Delegate’s total higher education budget recommendation of $220 million. We believe that the Senate’s current budget proposal is inadequate to support the needs of the College and of other universities across the Commonwealth. The Senate’s proposal of $182.6 million is insufficient and a reduction from Governor McDonnell’s former proposal of $194.5 million. The College of William and Mary needs public support to maintain its high-quality, accessible education.
We are pleased that both the House of Delegates and the Senate have put forth proposals that seek to aid colleges, universities, students, and Virginia families. Higher education remains one of the smartest investments a state government can make, for every additional dollar invested in higher education returns $17.40 to our Commonwealth’s economy. Investment in Virginia’s institutions of higher education ensures that we have a well equipped workforce and a vibrant economic future. Any proposal that seeks to equip tomorrow’s workforce must strike a balance between supporting college’s base budgets and faculty requirements with essential financial aid that goes directly to students. Combining the best aspects of both the House and the Senate’s proposals would best represent the interests of the Commonwealth. We encourage both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly to work towards our common goal of strengthening education, the backbone of our economy.