Monday, February 11, 2019

Nota Bene: Weekly Update

What an interesting time to be on Capitol Hill recently. Budget battles, attempted tax bill and Higher Education Act rewrites, and regulatory efforts at the Department of Education are all at the forefront as the new Congress begins. Frankly, from my visit to Washington I have to say that the atmosphere is as partisan and dysfunctional as I have seen in my 35-year career in higher education.

Through the leadership of longtime colleague David Warren, President of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), and his government relations staff, presidential colleagues were appropriated briefed in preparation for a well-organized three days on the Hill with Congressional and Senate leadership. Special thanks to David who, after 25 years at the helm of NAICU, will be retiring this year. Prior to joining NAICU, he was president of Ohio Wesleyan University for 10 years.

Because more than 1,600 independent colleges and universities enroll more than 3.7 million students across the country, the importance and benefit of these institutions should not be underestimated. NAICU membership consists of traditional liberal arts and sciences institutions like VWU, but also includes historically black colleges, faith-based universities, and women's colleges. For detailed information about our private college initiatives, I invite you to visit NAICU's website.

Some of the highlights from my time on the Hill: 

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting with Congressman Bobby Scott and his staff. A good friend to Virginia Wesleyan University, he is the dean of Virginia's congressional delegation. Since Bobby now chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, and important topics included student financial aid and the upcoming HEA bill.  Senior Education Policy Advisor Jacque Mosely and her staff were outstanding to visit with. We discussed topics from the state of the United Methodist Church to VWU's strong and unique partnership with Tidewater Community College.

At a social in the Kennedy Caucus Room on Capitol Hill before the State of the Union,  I enjoyed catching up with another good friend of VWU--U.S. Senator Mark Warner. Senator Warner is a strong supporter of Virginia higher education, is currently Vice Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and the Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. His Senior Education Policy Advisor Lauren Marshall has always provided excellent support with issues impacting VWU and the private sector.  

Pamela Fox, President of Mary Baldwin University, and I had the opportunity to brief new Congressman Ben Cline on issues important to Virginia higher education.  He replaced longtime Congressman Robert Goodlatte last month.  

At the 2019 Awards for Advocacy for Independent Higher Education ceremony, Hon. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) was recognized along with Hon. Michael Capuano (D-MA), former members, U.S. House of Representatives & Founding Co-chairs, Congressional Independent Colleges Caucus. As I've been active with the CICC for several years, I have great respect for both of these leaders.
Meeting with Senior Education Policy Advisor Karishma Merchant for Senator Tim Kaine and Kate Fegley of Congresswoman Elaine Luria's office, we discussed issues of mutual interest.

Another excellent meeting I had was with U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA) and Martha Robby (AL), co-chair of the Congressional Independent Colleges Caucus, which was held this year before the State of the Union on Capitol Hill. With over 70 active members, the Caucus serves as a forum for members of Congress to discuss solutions for the challenges that independent colleges face nationwide.  

One of the many other highlights of my visit included a fireside chat with NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt and presidential colleagues in Washington.  

Rounding out my visit, I enjoyed visiting with successful Virginia Wesleyan University alumnus David Green '98over breakfast. David is the Chief Financial Officer at Georgetown University. 

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In these uncertain times, it has become increasingly critical to spend this time with our legislators and those making decisions regarding higher education.  As a 28-year veteran of the college/university presidency, I'm often asked by state and local private college representatives to devote time at this time of the year to interpreting these issues and presenting a convincing case to our legislative leaders at the state and federal level. 

My last two weeks have resulted in significant time in both Richmond and Washington communicating with key leaders and their staffs on important issues impacting Higher Education Authorization and student financial aid.  I am hopeful that my meetings in both capitals will result in greater awareness by our government leadership of the many contributions of our colleges and universities, and particularly the necessity of keeping our doors open through the critical investment of all forms of student financial assistance.

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All of us have followed closely the unfolding events involving Governor Northam, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, and Attorney General  Herring--individuals whom I have held in high regard and who have disappointed and saddened many of us in Virginia and around the nation. During my four years at Virginia Wesleyan, Ralph Northam became a friend and trusted ally in our efforts to preserve access and affordability for higher education. Just last semester, he celebrated our national championship softball team in a ceremony at the Greer Environmental Sciences Center, and he had enormous promise as a forward-thinking leader of all the people.

Racism and racial insensitivity, however, are poisons that continue to sicken and weaken our society and can never be excused or justified. That these attitudes and practices have been associated with two of our state's highest officials, while a third is accused of sexual assault, is beyond shocking. Nevertheless, our priority must be to continue to learn from these events, to remain on the path toward tolerance, inclusion, and social justice, and to hold our elected officials accountable for tragic lapses of judgment, regardless of when they occurred.

Virginia will find a way to move on, as we must, but we dare not forget our collective responsibility for a fair and just society, or shirk our individual efforts in contributing to a greater good for everyone.
Many thanks to Robert Lambeth, President of the Council for Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV), for sharing the following information regarding the Virginia House and Senate budgets which were reported last week. I am pleased to report that the results were excellent! At this point, we only have a summary of information and I will share more when I've had the opportunity to review the official budget reports and language closely. For now, I can share that the House of Delegates added $5.2 million to the funds appropriated last year which is the same amount included in Governor Northam's budget. Given the substantial reduction to the amount of revenue available, the House support of the Tuition Assistance Grants (TAG) is impressive.  The Senate results are also looking strong. 

Perhaps the most important item to note is that it appears that the TAG award will increase next year.
The House and Senate budgets will soon go to a budget conference committee to determine the final appropriation. Budget conference decisions could be impacted by the final decisions on tax-conformity issues.  
The CICV will be working with SCHEV to determine likely TAG awards under various funding scenarios. We will know the official award following the General Assembly's completion of their budget work. 

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To strengthen our flourishing pre-collegiate offers, Virginia Wesleyan University has joined the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP).  NACEP is a professional organization for educational partnerships offering college-credit courses in high schools. Formally established in 1999 in response to the dramatic increase in concurrent enrollment courses throughout the country, NACEP serves as a national accrediting body for concurrent enrollment programs and supports members by providing standards of excellence, opportunities to network and share best practices, and access to information about research and national trends in dual and concurrent enrollment.

VWU currently has dual and concurrent enrollment programs with schools such as Tidewater Collegiate Academy, Chesapeake Bay Academy,  Cape Henry Collegiate, and Broadwater Academy. In addition to these partnerships, we have substantial programs that touch many students across the region including the Advanced Scholars Program and the Summer Scholars Environmental Institute.

Last Thursday, we welcomed scholars from throughout the country to VWU for the second weekend of competition for the elite and highly selective Batten Honors College. This year's competitors have a high school GPA of 4.24 (on a 4.0 scale) and an average SAT of 1371. We started with a pool of over 30,000 potential students, one-tenth of that group were deemed eligible in meeting preliminary requirements for the program, and only 117 out of 30,000 were invited to campus. With 40 seats available in the upcoming class, only three percent of those who meet the admissions requirements of the Batten Honors College will be admitted (20 receive full tuition Batten Fellowships and 20 receive two-thirds tuition as Shumadine Scholarships). The competition began with a welcome reception at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and continued  Friday and Saturday with various interviews, campus tours, class visits, and panel discussions. Participating students and their parents attended a reception at Slover Library in downtown Norfolk on Friday evening, and we were honored to introduce everyone to Jane Batten whose support of this distinguished initiative has led to our second national-niche program in addition to the Greer Environmental Sciences Center. Decisions on acceptance will be made in the coming weeks. Many thanks to Denise Cunningham, Batten Honors College Director of Enrollment; Joyce Easter, Dean of the Batten Honors College, and all who made it an excellent three days of vigorous competition.

We proudly celebrated the opening of the Army ROTC Marlin Company office at Virginia Wesleyan University this past week. Many thanks to Amy Rush, Army ROTC Marlin Company Advisor, for her work in making this happen. We are grateful to Professor of Military Science Major Rhana Kurdi and her staff for their service to our country and to Virginia Wesleyan. We truly value our partnership and look forward to its continued growth.  Read more here

In case you missed it, VWU officially launched our new online continuing education program. It features hundreds of personal and professional development courses including accounting, business, information technology, computer applications, the environment, writing/publishing, and much more.  We invite our alumni and friends, near and far, to check it out! Read more here.

Congratulations to Virginia Wesleyan University Board Vice Chair Jon Pruden on another successful business addition! The popular TASTE sandwich shop will open a new location in Virginia Beach's Town Center. Read more in The Virginian-Pilot.

With a break in the weather, Winn Nursery began laying sod as a final step in landscaping at The Beacon
Across campus at the Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center, glass windows are being installed and landscaping is underway. A dedication of the Goode Center is set for March 30.


  • Speakers at the Association of American Colleges and Universities' annual meeting took a hard look at the profession amid skepticism of the liberal arts and knowledge in general. Read the article "4 lessons on 'liberal' education's future," in Education Dive.
  • "Foreign Students Sour on America, Jeopardizing a $39 Billion Industry" in Education Dive noting "They provide critical revenue to U.S. universities. But administration's immigration crackdown has them going elsewhere." Read the article here.
  • An article in Education Dive, "College endowment growth slows as spending picks up," briefs us on the effects of the stock market's recent declines in relation to returns for endowment. Read more here.
  • "Tomorrows' Jobs Demand Higher Degrees as Economic Fates Diverge," reports Bloomberg and noting: "The fastest-growing fields require post-secondary education, often master's degrees." Read the article here.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports, "Colleges Mine Data on Their Applicants To determine 'demonstrated interest,' some schools are tracking how quickly prospective students open email and whether they click links." Read more here.
I hope you find these links useful to my recent columns and publications:
I invite you to stay updated on these activities here.
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Have a great week!