Universities move closer to Amazon HQ2
Virginia’s colleges and universities are expanding their programs and facilities to other regions, and some went global with major fundraising goals.
Virginia Tech is set to start classes this fall in Alexandria, where it soon will break ground on its Innovation Campus, a $1 billion project that promises to produce in-demand computer science and engineering graduates just a short distance from Amazon.com Inc.’s $2.5 billion HQ2. This fall, the Blacksburg university will open a temporary space in an Alexandria strip mall, with more than 200 graduate-level student attending classes full- and part-time.
Although Tech’s Northern Virginia expansion is the biggest so far, George Mason University also plans to grow its Arlington campus from 700,000 square feet to 1.2 million, spending an estimated $250 million. In November 2019, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the state will give 11 colleges and universities additional funding through the Tech Talent Investment Program as part of an effort to produce 31,000 more computer science students during the next 20 years.
Virginia Tech will account for more than half of those students, committing to award 5,911 bachelor’s degrees and 10,324 master’s degrees. Mason has committed to producing 2,277 computer science undergraduates and 5,328 graduates, and the University of Virginia promised to produce 3,416 bachelor’s degrees above its baseline.
In February, Virginia Tech hired Lance R. Collins, Cornell University’s dean of engineering, as the first vice president and executive director of the Innovation Campus, and the university selected SmithGroup, a Detroit-based architecture and planning firm, to design the campus’s first academic building, a 300,000-square-foot structure. George Mason in February put out a call for proposals to develop its $250 million Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA), set to open in 2025 in Arlington.
In October 2019, U.Va. launched the public phase of its most ambitious fundraising push, its $5 billion “Honor the Future” campaign.
At the launch event — featuring singer Tony Bennett, introduced by men’s basketball Coach Tony Bennett — the university announced it had already raised $2.75 billion, including several record-breaking individual donations. President James E. Ryan declared his goal to have U.Va. become the nation’s top public university by 2030. The $5 billion target already ties the universities of Washington and Michigan for the highest fundraising campaign goal at a public university.
Also last year, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia granted approval for U.Va.’s 12th school, the School of Data Science, which is funded in part by a $120 million gift announced in January 2019 from the philanthropic foundation of U.Va. alums Jaffray and Merrill Woodriff.
In Lynchburg, Liberty University marked an enrollment record of 111,000 students thanks to its online courses. And after years of fighting debt, the university’s endowment now tops $2 billion, according to the Christian school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr.
Falwell received some unwanted scrutiny last year as reports by Politico Magazine and Reuters questioned whether some of Liberty’s financial resources were being used to benefit his family and friends. The firebrand Falwell, a conservative icon, vehemently denied the allegations. In January, he appeared at a news conference with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, urging conservative Virginia counties to secede to the neighboring state. The waggishly dubbed “Vexit” is necessary, Falwell said, because the state’s newly elected Democratic-majority General Assembly, “through their elitism and radicalism, have left a nearly unrecognizable state in their wake.”
- Colleges & universities (private, nonprofit)
- Colleges & universities (public)
- Community colleges
- Endowments at Virginia colleges and universities