McAuliffe Gets the Numbers Wrong

Terry McAuliffe, in his weekly meme, has put out some astounding numbers on Virginia’s Community College System.

McAulife-CC

According to the graphic, that’s a 43% decrease in our Community College’s funding per student in only 5 years, or just under 9% per year.

This would be quite draconian. If it were true.

I reached out to the McAuliffe campaign to see how they calculated these numbers, because based on the data available, there is absolutely no way this can be true. Here’s the data I got through VCCS and the Department of Planning and Budget. Here are the real numbers:

Year VCCS Total Budget Enrollment (Unduplicated Headcount)* Spent per student
2008 $895,785,006 249,295 $3,593.27
2009 $1,009,927,672 262,444 $3,848.16
2010 $1,054,489,649 281,239 $3,749.44
2011 $1,410,790,876 286,920 $4,917.02
2012 $1,397,672,403 288,834 $4,839.02

I haven’t received a response on their methodology, but contrary to Mr. McAuliffe’s claims, funding per student has actually risen 35% since 2008. Additionally, funding for VCCS personnel has risen 22% while the VCCS student enrollment has only risen 16% in that same time.

Again, I have no idea how McAuliffe came up with his numbers. There’s only one calculation that brought me somewhat close to his numbers, and that was dividing the GENERAL FUND appropriations (i.e., those dollars that are specifically set aside for a purpose) by the number of FULL-TIME students. Here’s the table for that:

Year VCCS Appropriation from General Fund VCCS Appropriation from non-general Fund Full-Time Students $ Spent per Full-time student from General Fund
2008 $414,517,441 $481,267,565 101,889 $4,068.32
2009 $402,055,767 $607,871,905 153,572 $2,618.03
2010 $373,813,964 $680,675,685 158,760 $2,354.59
2011 $370,127,022 $1,040,663,854 158,504 $2,335.13
2012 $353,007,442 $1,044,664,961 159,182 $2,217.63

**

This is at least in the ballpark to McAuliffe’s numbers, and the final calculation ($ Spent per FT Student from the General Fund) does show close to a 43% drop in funding. But as you can see from the third column, that decrease in funding FROM THE GENERAL FUND has been replaced ten times over from NON-GENERAL FUNDS.

Now, there IS an argument to be made that the Non-General funds received through tuition and fees should not be included, since the state does not really expend these, it only receives them. Still, even if we subtract the revenues from tuition and fees from the total budget, and divide it by the student populations, for both years, the state of Virginia spent a MINIMUM*** of $2,650 for all students in 2008, and a MINIMUM of $3,596 in 2012. That 2012 number is, again, at a MINIMUM, over $1,000 higher than McAuliffe’s number, and still reflects a MINIMUM of 35% INCREASE in dollars spent per student.

McAuliffe would make it seem like the Community College System is grossly underfunded. Having seen first-hand the massive efforts underway to improve the quality of life and learning at these institutions, this is simply not the case. Of course they would like MORE money, but to say Virginia spends less money per student now than it did five years ago is absolutely absurd. And false. Mr. McAuliffe needs to explain himself now.

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* “Undulpicated Headcount” does not count the same student twice for different semesters enrolled. In other words, it is the total number of student ID #s that have enrolled in that year.

** If we back up the school year by one year (i.e., 2007’s enrollment in 2008’s appropriations), we get a little closer to McAuliffe’s #s:

Year VCCS Appropriation from General Fund VCCS Appropriation from non-general Fund Full-Time Students $ Spent per Full-time student from General Fund
2008 $414,517,441 $481,267,565 96,856 $4,279.73
2012 $353,007,442 $1,044,664,961 158,504 $2,227.12

*** The MINIMUM is calculated by dividing the remaining funds by the TOTAL population, many of whom are part-time students and do not incur nearly the amount of funding as full-time students do.