The editorial in the Sept. 21, 1897 New York Sun responding to a letter from eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon inquiring about whether there was a Santa Claus has become the most reprinted newspaper editorial, according to Newseum. “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”
Members of the higher education community in Virginia must have felt there was a Santa Claus last week as Gov. Bob McDonnell made the first of a series of
announcements on his budget proposals for the next biennium.
He announced that he is allocating an additional $100 million for colleges and universities. While the amount of money is quite modest, the direction of adding money to the institutions of higher education to serve additional students as well as to reach the goals they are being asked to meet is a welcome change from the last couple of decades during which their state support was reduced.
The proposed allocation is slightly more than the University of Virginia alone would receive ($97.3 million) if it was funded at the 1989-90 level of inflated dollars without considering the growth of its student body. His proposed amount will be spread across all of Virginia’s state colleges and universities. The Governor’s proposal, if approved by the General Assembly, will help slow the descent of the Commonwealth to the bottom among the states in support of students in higher education. The Commonwealth ranks 40th in the level of state appropriation per student at $5,065 for FY 2010.
The percentage of the state’s general funds allocated to higher education has decreased from 14 percent in 1992-93 to 10 percent in 2011-12. In 2000-01 the general fund appropriation was $11,108 per student.
Just as with Santa Claus, we do not always get all that we want. If higher education is going to get an increase in its budget at a time when revenues remain stagnant, who will be getting a further reduction? We may have to wait for the last of the Governor’s announcement, as the bad news is generally held for last.
Obviously, I am not Santa Claus and will not be able to make you any promises, but I am interested in your wish list for General Assembly budgeting and legislating in its 2012 session.
I will be calling constituents in my district at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, for a tele-hearing. Stay on the line to talk with me about your interests. Or join me at an in-person public hearing with Senator Janet Howell at the Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods on Thursday, Jan. 5, at 7:30 p.m.