- Two top Republicans in Virginia's Legislature want to know how the state can reduce higher education costs, citing concerns over campus positions focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.
- In a Thursday letter, House Speaker Todd Gilbert and House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore requested the state's legislative oversight committee investigate the growing cost of Virginia public higher education and "anecdotal reports” from colleges about the increasing number of administrators in DEI positions.
- The lawmakers suggested the investigation is needed in the wake of enrollment concerns at some of the state’s colleges. But supporters of DEI efforts say the investigation is focused on defanging institutions' ability to run such programs.
Virginia is one of several states with conservative legislators digging into DEI efforts on public campuses.
The Florida Legislature this month sent a bill weakening campus diversity initiatives to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, an ardent opponent of DEI programs. Earlier this year, the Oklahoma education superintendent ordered his state's higher ed system to detail their diversity spending. And in February, the University of Texas System said it would halt all new DEI policies following a push from the state's Republican lawmakers.
Virginia governor, Republican Glenn Youngkin, has targeted DEI initiatives before and recently eliminated almost all of the state education department's equity programs.
But unlike Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, Virginia's government is divided, with a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican House. It is unlikely the Senate would pass legislation prohibiting college DEI programs.
A previous attempt to force the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, a nonpartisan Virginia state agency, to study higher ed spending failed to get beyond the House Rules subcommittee. Republican legislators elected to send Thursday's letter instead.
The commission previously released a report to address the rising cost of public higher ed institutions in 2014.
In their letter, legislators questioned if any of the resulting recommendations have been implemented in the decade since. The recommendations included providing additional state funding for higher education, limiting mandatory noneducational student fees, and restricting state aid to low- and moderate-income students.
The letter also cites statistics from the conservative advocacy organization Virginia Association of Scholars, which said the combined cost of the state's public university DEI staff would equate to 1,100 full-tuition scholarships for in-state students.