Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Editor’s Note: The article below focuses on the VCCS briefing for top legislative and administration policy makers on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. The process occurs every two years and is part of the planning for the biennial budget that the Governor will propose in late fall and the General Assembly will approve in 2020. The presentation did not include all key VCCS budget priorities, including salary increases for faculty and staff, increasing transfer success, and several measures aimed at increasing equity.

Virginia’s Community College leaders made the case this week for hundreds of new academic advisors system-wide to improve retention and success rates for at-risk students and military veterans.

The advising initiative is part of the system’s updated Six-year Academic and Financial plan, provided during a briefing for top legislative and administration policy makers on Tuesday, August 13. The process occurs every two years and is part of the planning for the biennial budget that the Governor will propose in late fall and the General Assembly will approve in 2020.

Other key initiatives in the plan focus on preparing VCCS colleges for the Governor’s upcoming G-3 college promise proposal, boosting workforce training opportunities, and expanding VCCS cloud computing programs to meet the needs of Amazon Web Services and others as the need for those skills grows across industry sectors.

Advising:

“Simply put, our students today are older, poorer, more likely to be the first in their family to go to college – just like I was – and they are more likely to attend class part-time while working fulltime,” said VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois, during the presentation at the State Capitol in Richmond.

“I don’t refer to our institutions as two-year colleges,” DuBois added. “Three out of five of our students attend part-time. They take about nine credit hours a year. And it takes them five or six years to graduate – if they ever make it.”

The bottom line: students in community colleges need more help to navigate daunting academic challenges after high school.

“We have evidence that intensive coaching works for at-risk students,” said Sharon Morrissey, VCCS’s senior vice-chancellor for academic and workforce programs. Morrissey pointed to national research and the VCCS’s own experience, and said community colleges will ask Virginia lawmakers for additional funding in the next budget year to hire 353 new student advisors system-wide.
She said the $26 million investment to expand the VCCS’s capacity to support students will increase student retention and success rates, and would help bring the system’s current ratio of 548 students to each advisor closer to the nationally recommended standard of 300-to-1.

“We are talking about our coaching/advising priority first because it is truly the foundation of everything else that we seek to do,” said Morrissey.

Additional Priorities:

Key policy and budgetary details have not yet been announced by the governor’s office, but VCCS also is hard at work redesigning associate degree programs into shorter units that will give students a better chance of getting a job while pursuing their degrees.

Producing stackable credentials that hold value in the marketplace is part of the Governor’s G-3 College Promise Program to increase college access and reduce college debt.
Said Morrissey, “VCCS looks forward to working with appropriate constituencies and stakeholder groups to flesh out the details of a Virginia Promise program.”

Workforce Training:

VCCS also hopes to build on its successful FastForward workforce training programs, seeking more money for student grants to produce an additional 13,000 valuable industry recognized credentials over its current pace during the six year plan.

FastForward short-term programs are targeted to jobs that are in high demand and help move more Virginians into the middle class while bolstering the talent pool for the state’s employers.

Cloud Computing Skills:

As web retail and technology giant Amazon begins to create a massive presence in Northern Virginia, VCCS colleges want to collaborate with it to expand the number of community college graduates obtaining cloud computing skills, which is a surging demand across many industry sectors.

The VCCS system office will work in partnership with Northern Virginia Community College and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to expand NOVA’s cloud computing specialization to a total of seven additional colleges during the upcoming two-year budget cycle.

Labor market research shows a strong demand for workers with cloud computing skills, with a four-fold increase in job postings since September 2016.

To read the text of the VCCS Six-Year Plan presentation at the Capitol on August 13, click here. 

jbabb@vccs.edu'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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