Virginia Tech’s commitment to help double the commonwealth’s tech-talent pipeline — and the state’s promise to support the university’s plan with up to $545 million in funding over the next 20 years — was recently formalized through two memorandums of understanding signed by President Tim Sands.

In a successful effort to attract Amazon’s HQ2 to Northern Virginia, state leaders created the Tech Talent Investment Program with the goal of adding 25,000 more bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science, computer engineering, and related disciplines by 2039. Universities from across the state were invited to submit ideas for how they could help meet the goal.

Virginia Tech’s bold plan to build a graduate-level Innovation Campus in Alexandria and to add at least 2,000 more undergraduate students studying in Blacksburg, both part of this program, have been cited as key reasons Amazon opted to build HQ2 in Arlington.

At a ceremony Thursday at Virginia State University, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the agreements with 11 universities will create 31,000 new degrees in these fields, exceeding the legislative goal.

"This initiative is an investment in Virginians," Northam said. “Virginia’s tech sector will continue booming only if we can train the workforce those jobs require. With today’s announcement, we are educating a workforce that will fill jobs at hundreds of tech companies around the commonwealth, including at Amazon, helping boost our economy and quality of life in every corner of Virginia.”

As expected, Virginia Tech’s agreements with the state – one outlining undergraduate growth and one for graduate growth – include $167.7 million in capital funding for the Innovation Campus’s first academic building in Alexandria and $69 million in capital funding for a data and decisions building in Blacksburg. Those funds were approved by the General Assembly earlier this year.

“Virginia Tech’s national leadership in STEM and our heritage as the commonwealth’s land-grant research institution position Virginia Tech to lead in bolstering the state’s tech-talent base, growing cross-sector partnerships, and designing new graduate programs that meet the emerging needs of the digital economy,” said President Tim Sands. “Our new campus in Alexandria will be a global gateway for technology and talent where motivated students from diverse backgrounds, world-class faculty, and forward-thinking companies work together to propel our communities forward to a digitally enabled future that expands opportunity for everyone.” 

The first class of Innovation Campus students will enroll in fall 2020. The architectural and engineering contract for the first campus building in North Potomac Yard will be awarded this year with plans for the building’s completion in 2024.

The graduate-level memorandum with the state outlines the university’s plan to grow the number of master’s graduates in computer science and computer engineering from 97 students to 739 students by 2026-27. The university will receive $18.5 million in start-up funds and $3.3 million in recurring annual funds through 2039.

Most of that growth will come at the new campus in Alexandria. When complete in about 10 years, the campus plans to enroll up to 750 master’s candidates and hundreds of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. The Innovation Campus, which expects to hire 50 research and teaching faculty, will also be funded by student tuition, philanthropy, and other revenue sources.

Virginia Tech leaders anticipate that Hokie undergrads will use the $1 billion Innovation Campus in a variety of ways, including through internships, undergraduate research, and accelerated graduate programs. Other academic programs and research related to computing and opportunities it provides to improve the human condition could also be located on the new campus.

The Innovation Campus will be fueled by undergraduate growth in Blacksburg and expanded K-12 outreach.

“We will accelerate the integration of data-driven technologies into our curricula to expand computer science across all disciplines in the College of Engineering,” said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “We are also defining pathways to engage students in engineering at a much earlier age, through existing and expansion of college programs. And already, the interest in our emerging programs in D.C. has been overwhelming.”

The undergraduate memorandum outlines the university’s plan to grow the number of bachelor’s graduates in computer science and computer engineering from 394 to 798 by 2028-29 and to maintain that level through 2039. For meeting those goals, Virginia Tech will get $36.3 million in start-up funds and a recurring annual budget of $9.7 million for 20 years.

To support these new students and propel research, Virginia Tech plans to hire more than 100 new faculty members in Blacksburg.

While many of the new faculty hires will be focused in computer science and computer engineering disciplines, the College of Engineering is not the only area of the university that will benefit. Virginia Tech’s commitment to liberal education means that every student will take classes in a number of fields and across different colleges. Virginia Tech’s hiring will reflect that growth across disciplines and departments.

With a goal of 50 percent in-state enrollment in the graduate programs, the Innovation Campus will also create new pathways to attract students from other Virginia universities as well as working professionals in the Washington, D.C., region who want a master’s degree to advance their career.

Last week, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approved a new master of engineering degree in computer science, the first newly created program for the innovation campus.

Students will be able to choose to participate in the program on a part-time, full-time, or full-time accelerated basis. Full-time students could reasonably earn the master of engineering in computer science degree in about three semesters.

The 11 colleges that received funds in this round, and the degrees over their baseline that they have committed to produce, are:

  • Virginia Tech: 5,911 bachelor’s degrees, 10,324 master’s degrees
  • George Mason University: 2,277 bachelor’s degrees, 5,328 master’s degrees
  • The University of Virginia: 3,416 bachelor’s degrees
  • College of William & Mary: 930 bachelor’s degrees
  • Old Dominion University: 765 bachelor’s degrees
  • Virginia Commonwealth University: 722 bachelor’s degrees
  • James Madison University: 467 bachelor’s degrees
  • Radford University: 394 bachelor’s degrees
  • Christopher Newport University: 392 bachelor’s degrees
  • Virginia State University: 186 bachelor’s degrees
  • Norfolk State University: 126 bachelor’s degrees