The spring semester is in the final stretch, the campus is beautiful in this spring weather, and our rising freshman class continues to look very strong. There is much to celebrate.
The General Assembly held its regular reconvened session this week, and I am pleased to relay good news and context concerning the two distinct areas where the Commonwealth provides us key support --- capital (i.e. building projects) and operations.
Regarding capital funding from the Commonwealth, in 2016 the Governor and General Assembly have appropriated more than $40 million to Longwood --- fully funding the long-planned new academic building (to be located behind French) and new admissions office, as well as providing important campus infrastructure funding. This is by far the largest amount of capital funding Longwood has received from the Commonwealth in a single year in our history. Emily O’Brion has done brilliant work, as have members of the Board of Visitors, and we are profoundly thankful to the General Assembly and the Governor.
With these projects now assured funding, plus the others on campus already moving forward, we can be assured that a very high proportion of our space needs on campus will be addressed within the next few years. Construction always brings some inconvenience, and I appreciate your patience, but this is an enviable position for any institution.
Operational funding from the Commonwealth is, of course, a separate stream of support. As we all know the state has faced many pressures on its operating budget. Despite the goodwill for higher education and Longwood, these pressures have made it difficult to fund higher education at the level of decades past. Still, Commonwealth operating funds continue to be vital, covering roughly one-fifth of our annual non-capital budget, and here too the news this year was good.
The Governor and General Assembly have given dedicated focus to improving operating funding for higher education, and they have included an additional $2 million for Longwood over two years to support efforts to improve access and programming quality. The budget also includes the state’s share of a salary increase for state employees. In practice, Longwood will bear most of that cost, but we are committed to continuing to make progress on compensation. We are still awaiting both the governor’s signature and further guidance from the state on how this will work in practice, and also thinking through how best to support our most urgent priorities. This is precisely the kind of institution-wide strategic thinking and prioritizing that bears consideration by the University Planning Council, and I will be listening to their views when we meet next Thursday at 3:30 in Blackwell. UPC meetings are open to the university community.
There is genuine bipartisan support in Richmond for Longwood – for our mission, for our work, and for our careful stewardship of both public money and the tuition dollars that come from students and families. There is gratitude for our leadership in the Commonwealth in holding down tuition increases, and excitement that we have stepped forward to host the debate. Across state government, this is viewed as an important public service, and an opportunity both for our students and to share our story with the nation and world.
As I look around the nation at the often troubled relationships between public universities and the political leadership in their states, I cannot help but remark upon my gratitude for this goodwill, and its value to our institution. Success begets success, and I am grateful to all of you for the roles you have played in the momentum we have.