Virginia's 'exclusive' colleges need a course in Inclusion 101

Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 8:44 PM

Nothing could better illustrate why the Virginia General Assembly should compel the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary to accept an increased number of in-state students than the counterarguments set forth in John E. Valliere's Feb. 6 letter.

There is no doubt that many U-Va. alumni share Mr. Valliere's implied concerns that accepting a greater number of highly qualified in-state students might put U-Va.'s sense of exclusiveness (which he describes as "diversity") at risk and - worse - could harm the image of "Mr. Jefferson's university."

Relative to state population, the University of Virginia is among the smallest public universities in the nation to bear the name of its state. By remaining small and relatively exclusive, U-Va. has underserved Virginia's high school graduates for many years. Interestingly, U-Va.'s preoccupation with its national image caused previous state legislatures to provide funds that resulted in the expansion and enhancement of other top universities in the state, such as Virginia Tech, James Madison University and Virginia Commonwealth University, to the point that Virginians are the envy of many residents in other states who wish that they had so many fine choices of where to send their kids to a public college.

But with those days over and the legislature cutting its financial support for colleges, it is time for U-Va. and William and Mary to step up to the plate and pay less attention to their national image and more to serving the students of Virginia in a manner that would make Mr. Jefferson - at least the one whom I studied about - proud.

Grant Donald Beale, Arlington

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