May 2, 2019
2019 Virginia Legislators of the Year

Following each legislative session,Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust recognizes members of the General Assembly for their distinguished leadership and commitment to promoting college affordability for Virginia’s students and families.  When selecting our annual awardees, Partners considers a legislator’s bill patronage, voting records and other examples of leadership,such as courageously speaking up to advance the issue.

Beyond these top six awards, Partners also commends legislative Champions of College Affordability who have displayed their support to press the case for college affordability during the legislative session.

2019 House Legislators of the Year

Delegate S. Chris Jones (R-76)

As the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Delegate Jones led the effort to prioritize making college more affordable for Virginia students and their families by allocating an additional $52.7 million in state funding for public institutions who agree to hold the line of tuition and fee increases for one year. The creation of the tuition moderation fund earned overwhelming support of both parties in both chambers of the General Assembly as well as the Governor of Virginia.

Delegate Jason Miyares (R-82)

During the past two legislative sessions, Delegate Miyares carried legislation to require that governing boards of public institutions provide a period for public comment prior to approving tuition and fee increases. This year, his common-sense proposal passed unanimously out of both legislative chambers and was signed into law by the governor on March 18,2019.

Delegate Miyares also introduced legislation requiring educational programs for governing boards at Virginia’s public institutions to include a review of student debt trends and specify that Board members’ primary duty is to the citizens of the Commonwealth. House Bill 2620 was approved unanimously in both chambers and was signed into law by the governor on March 19, 2019.

Delegate David Reid (D-32)

During the past two legislative sessions, Delegate Reid introduced bills to limit tuition rates at public institutions. Ultimately, his efforts helped lay the groundwork for the tuition moderation fund that was included in the General Assembly’s FY 2020 budget and supported by the Governor of Virginia. In 2019, Delegate Reid successfully carried legislation that will make financial aid award letters easier for students and parents to understand, helping them make better-informed financial decisions. House Bill 1704 was signed into law by the governor on March 18, 2019.

2019 Senate Legislators of the Year

Senator Bill DeSteph Jr. (R-8)

During the 2019 legislative session, Senator DeSteph introduced two bills to increase accountability within higher education governing boards by requiring educational programs for governing board sat Virginia’s public institutions to include a review of student debt trends and specify that a Board member’s primary duty is to the citizens of the Commonwealth. After action by the House of Delegates effectively conformed the two pieces of legislation into one, Senate Bill 1234 was approved by both chambers and signed into law by the governor on March 19, 2019.  

Senator Chap Petersen (D-34)

To promote transparency and accountability in Virginia’s public colleges and universities, Senator Petersen introduced legislation to require that their governing boards give public notice and provide a period of public comment prior to approving tuition and fee increases.  In 2019, Senate Bill 1118 passed both chambers unanimously and was signed into law by the governor on March 18, 2019.

Senator Glen Sturtevant (R-10)

For the past four years, Senator Sturtevant has introduced legislation that would limit increases in in-state college tuition, pegging it to the annual percentage increase in the consumer price index.  Ultimately, his efforts helped lay the groundwork for the tuition moderation fund that was included in the General Assembly’s FY 2020 budget and approved by the Governor of Virginia.

During the 2019 session, he also championed legislation that would require governing boards at Virginia’s publicly-funded colleges to hold public comment periods prior to approving tuition and fee increases.Senator Sturtevant’s Senate Bill 1261 was incorporated into Senate Bill 1118 and signed into law by the governor on March 18, 2019.

2019 Champions of College Affordability

Delegate Glenn Davis (R-84)

During the 2019 legislative session, Delegate Davis introduced legislation to create a better and fairer outcomes-based funding model for public higher education by establishing a blue-ribbon commission consisting of legislators, higher education leaders, and members of the business community tasked with creating a new funding model. The bill was left in the House Committee on Appropriations with the understanding that the issue would be considered by the Joint Subcommittee on the Future Competitiveness of Virginia Higher Education later this year.

Delegate Chris Hurst (D-12)

To help Virginia’s college students make more affordable financial choices, Delegate Hurst carried legislation requiring that course catalogs clearly identify courses that offer low- or no-cost textbook or course materials. House Bill 2380 passed both chambers unanimously and was signed into law by the governor on March 18, 2019.

Delegate Steve Landes (R-25)

Delegate Landes, who serves as chairman of the House Education Committee, successfully championed legislation to increase transparency and accountability within the rate-setting process at public colleges and universities. Establishing a statewide process for setting tuition and fees at public institutions, House Bill 2337 requires governing boards to hold a period of public comment prior to rate-setting decisions and to provide explanation for any rate increases that deviate from the projected range provided to students and the public. Additionally, House Bill 2337 requires the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to provide the General Assembly with an annual report that summarizes institutional action related to undergraduate tuition, including any increases that deviate from the institutions’ six-year plans. House Bill 2337 passed both chambers with overwhelming support and was signed into law by the governor on March 18, 2019.

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12)

During the 2019 legislative session, Senator Dunnavant championed legislation make financial aid award letters easier for students and parents to understand, helping them to make better-informed financial decisions. Senate Bill 1593 was signed into law by the governor on March 18, 2019.

Senator Richard Stuart (R-28)

In 2018, the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Council, chaired by Senator Stuart, voted unanimously to adopt public comment periods as a best practice for public college governing boards prior to tuition increases. “You guys highlighted a really big problem,”said Senator Stuart.  “I had no idea they didn’t allow people to speak when they’re really affecting people’s futures.”  

Following institutional decisions to subsequently approve tuition hikes without heeding this best practice, Senator Stuart introduced legislation in 2019 that would have prohibited public institutional governing boards from raising tuition and mandatory fee rates without two-thirds approval from their student body. Senate Bill 1204 was later incorporated into Senator Petersen’s legislation pertaining to public comment requirements (Senate Bill 1118) and signed into law by the governor on March 18, 2019.

Relevant 2019 Bills introduced by Legislators of the Year and Legislative Champions

Delegate Davis: HB 2246

Senator DeSteph: SB 1234, SB 1239

Senator Dunnavant: SB 1593

Delegate Hurst: HB 2380

Delegate Jones: HB 1700

Delegate Landes: HB 2337

Delegate Miyares: HB 2173, HB 2620

Senator Petersen: SB 1118

Delegate Reid: HB 1704, HB 2476

Senator Stuart: SB 1204

Senator Sturtevant: SB 1261, SB 1546