SCHEV, General Assembly Legislation, and Projects on the Horizon

A number of initiatives from the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia, combined with some recently passed legislation, will require that we take a look at some of our academic policies.  As usual, these directives are phrased as broad policy outlines and in most cases the details are left up to the individual institutions.

One effort has to do with the establishment of “dual admissions” programs between four-year institutions and community colleges in Virginia. This requirement included in

the State Transfer Module legislation (Code of Virginia Section 23-9.14:2) passed in 2004 requiring two- and four-year institutions to develop dual admissions agreements and programs. A dual admissions agreement establishes dual admissions programs for qualified students to be simultaneously accepted by a two-year and a four-year institution of higher education and, upon successful completion of an associate degree program, to be automatically enrolled in the four-year institution. Dual admissions agreements set forth the (1) obligations of the students accepted in such programs, including grade point average, acceptable associate degree majors, and completion timetables; and (2) the student’s access to the privileges of enrollment in both institutions during the time enrolled in either institution. Dual admissions agreements are subject to the admissions requirements of the four-year institutions. As a first step, SCHEV plans to conduct a survey to determine the extent to which public two- and four-year dual admissions agreements have been developed in the Virginia higher education system.

My Academic Affairs Council (consisting all my “direct reports”) have begun preliminary discussions about how to proceed, and we will of course be involving faculty as soon as we have some clearer general directions in mind.  As an example, the College of William and Mary already has several such agreements.

Two particular pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly this year present us with a need to evaluate certain aspects of our academic program.  The first, HB 1066, concerns something called the community college uniform certificate.  This requires that SCHEV, in consultation with the Virginia Community College System and Virginia public institutions of higher education, develop a program to be offered at all community colleges that ensures that a community college student who completes the one-year certificate program may transfer all credits to a four-year public institution of higher education in the Commonwealth, upon acceptance to the institution. The details of how SCHEV plans to proceed are unclear at this point.  I’ll keep you informed as we learn more.

Also, SB 209, concerning International Baccalaureate credit, requires that each public institution’s policies for course credit for standard and higher level International Baccalaureate courses shall be comparable to its policies for granting course credit for Advanced Placement courses. SCHEV will again be providing additional guidance regarding how institutions are to proceed, but it seems clear at this point that we will need to review our policies and be prepared to either explain why we judge them to be in compliance with the intent of the legislation or develop appropriate policy changes.

Finally, Governor McDonnell announced the formation of a new Commission on Higher Education and charged it with a number of tasks that you can see described here.  Executive Order #9, which created this commission, identifies three broad objectives for investigation –increasing degree attainment; implementing innovation and cost containment approaches; and developing regional strategies and partnerships.

In short, stay tuned.  There’s much going on.  While these are not the only bills passed that impact higher education, there are ones that may have a bearing on future decisions we may need to make about some of our academic programs.

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