Candidates for Governor Call on Universities To Step up Research, Economic Development

Sep 7, 2017

Torgersen Hall at Virginia Tech
Credit Virginia Tech

Virginia is home to some of the best public universities in the country, and Virginia’s major party candidates for governor are hoping those schools can step up and do even more. Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam have both issued detailed policy plans on higher education, and both want schools to focus more on research and workforce. 

Peter Blake is director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. And he’s happy to see both candidates recognize the work universities are already doing.

“Heartening encouraging -- from my perspective to see that both candidates believe that higher education is an important contributor to the economic and cultural wellbeing of our Commonwealth," he says. "So from that perspective, I was very impressed by both plans.”

Republican Ed Gillespie wants universities to put a greater focus on internships, and create more research partnerships with private business. Democrat Ralph Northam calls for essentially the same thing, adding that universities should brand and market those partnerships, to attract top students and entrepreneurs.

Blake says Virginia’s universities are capable and willing -- but, as always, it’ll come down to money.

"For faculty, for staff, for equipment, for student financial aid, for outreach into the community, for special programs that might  work more closely with businesses and so forth,” said Blake. 

The state has cut spending to higher education eight of the past ten years.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.