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Monday, September 26, 2005

The Candidates on Higher Education

The Roanoke Times has an good piece detailing the differences in how the three gubernatorial candidates approach higher education. It begins, apropriately, with comparing their own personal experiences with higher education.

Jerry Kilgore has a comprehensive plan on higher education that would lessen the burden on Virginia's public schools by expanding the range of opportunities available to Virginia's students. This will be done through Virginia's Community Colleges as well as increased grants for private colleges. Kilgore would also expand current programs in Southside to provide more opportunities for four-year degrees in that region. Kilgore's plan would also offer scholarships for those pursuing engineering degrees so as to keep the best and brightest in emerging fields in-state. Kilgore would also encourage coordination between Community Colleges and employers to provide meaningful internship experiences.

The impressive thing is that Kilgore has an entirely separate educational platform to address the needs of Virginia's Colleges and Universities, while Kaine lumps all education initiatives together. As any educator can tell you, there is a big difference between K-12 education and higher education. Kilgore has obviously done his homework.

Tim Kaine's solution is, of course, to dump ever more public money into the breach. Frankly Kaine's higher education plan is extremely weak, a fact the RT not surprisingly glosses over. His two initiatives are to establish a four-year public university in Southside and to give scholarships to students who do community service. That's it. Kaine doesn't say how a new public university would be funded, but given the incredible cost associated with starting up an entirely new institution, one can guess that it starts with taxpayers money. The scholarships are a nice feel-good measure, but Kaine offers nothing even close to as substantive as Kilgore on how to address the growing needs of Virginia's students and public universities.

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