Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell announced plans Wednesday to boost higher education spending by $100 million a year for the next two years.

While McDonnell (R) has kept most of what is expected to be a generally lean and painful two-year budget proposal close to the vest — he releases the whole spending plan Monday — he called a news conference in Richmond Wednesday afternoon to trumpet the good news for higher education.

Surrounded by state university presidents and students in college sweatshirts, McDonnell said the time had come to “reverse a pattern of disinvestment or erratic investment” in higher education, which he said had led to tuition hikes of 10 percent a year for the past decade.

“This is really exceptional given the times in which we live,” said Linwood Rose, president of James Madison University.

The state spends about $1.3 billion a year on higher education.

The extra money would come with strings attached. It would be offered as a reward to schools that achieve certain goals intended to make the institutions more efficient and their graduates more employable. Those goals include graduating more students in fewer than four years and graduating more in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and health sciences.