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Presidential message on the 2016 General Assembly

To the Virginia Tech Community,

I am pleased to report on the outcome of the 2016 General Assembly session.  We are grateful to the Administration and the General Assembly for making the most significant investment in Higher Education and Virginia Tech of this century.  With that investment comes responsibility and expectations, especially in leveraging our partnerships in research and innovation to catalyze the development of the Virginia economy, and in using financial aid and operating appropriations to promote access, affordability and success for our students. In the following paragraphs, I summarize the most significant of these investments and the implications for Virginia Tech.

Access, Affordability and Student Success: The operating appropriation for the biennium beginning July 1, 2016 increases by 10% in the first year and 11.6% in the second year over the general fund appropriation for fiscal year 2016.  While we are still recovering from two recessions over the past 15 years which resulted in a 55% reduction of state support per student after adjusting for inflation, this increase will help Virginia Tech keep tuition and fee increases to the lowest levels in many years. Next week our Board of Visitors will meet to consider our tuition recommendations which we will announce after we adjourn. I am particularly gratified that we will be able to enhance our Funds for the Future program. This program that insulates low and middle-income students from increases in tuition and fees will be expanded to provide 100% protection for returning students from families with incomes below $75,000. Financial aid funding from the Commonwealth also increases $590,000 for Virginia undergraduate students.  

The Commonwealth’s capital budget provides a planning authorization of approximately $3.7M for the Undergraduate Science Laboratory building, an estimated $74.8M project that will complement the Undergraduate Classroom Building that is now under construction.  These two buildings will provide modern classrooms and laboratories that promote active inquiry-based learning, as well as informal study and collaboration spaces. 

Estimated state bond funding in the amount of $61M is provided for the Holden Hall renovation project, which is expected to cost $73.5M.   This is the first step in updating and expanding facilities to accommodate both growth in the College of Engineering as well as development of academic strengths in the emerging Destination Areas.

Research and Innovation: Perhaps the most transformative investments in the Commonwealth’s budget are in the domain of partnerships between our research universities and the private sector in fields that promise to bolster the diversification of Virginia’s economy.  The Commonwealth will provide an estimated $46.7M toward the next phase of infrastructure for the partnership between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic.  This new facility in Roanoke is anticipated to cost $67.7M and the VTC expansion in Roanoke will leverage the combined resources of Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech in both Roanoke and Blacksburg. This is a great step forward for health sciences in Southwest Virginia.

With this biennium budget, the Commonwealth has created the Virginia Research Investment Fund, including $22 million in operating resources over two years and $29 million in bonding authority for laboratory renovations and instrumentation.  The resources in this fund will allow Virginia institutions to attract and retain talent and assemble shared facilities in emerging domains of science and technology that will provide the basis for our future economy.  The Fund’s resources will be available as matching funds through a competitive process that favors multi-institution partnerships with the private sector.

The new budget also provides $2M for the Cyber Range. With this funding, Virginia Tech will work with education institutions across the state and state government leaders to create shared resources to provide experiential learning opportunities for cybersecurity education. 

Infrastructure:  The biennium budget includes estimated state funding of $35.2M for new chiller capacity that will be needed to support the growing infrastructure of the Blacksburg campus.  The total cost of this project is currently estimated at $40M.

Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension: The biennium budget allocates $22.5M in state bonding authority to cover 100 percent of the cost for Phase I of a much-needed upgrade to our animal facilities.  Agriculture and Forestry represent the largest portion of the Virginia Economy, with annual revenues of over $70B.  These new and upgraded facilities will allow Virginia Tech to support growth in this important sector.

People:  The biennium budget includes support for a 3% increase in salaries for faculty and staff in the first year, effective November 10, 2016.

As you can see, the support for Virginia Tech at the state level allows us to move forward to advance our mission and meet the needs of the Commonwealth to educate and prepare the next generation of leaders, thinkers and doers. We appreciate the confidence in Virginia Tech expressed by the Governor, the Senate and the House of Delegates in this biennium budget.  Virginia Tech is in an extraordinary position to advance the public good through education, research and innovation in partnership with the Commonwealth and our partners.

In the spirit of Ut Prosim,

Tim Sands

President

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