VCU students will pay roughly 4 percent more for tuition next year after the Board of Visitors approved the increase yesterday.
The increase will cost current in-state students $414 more. Out-of-state students will pay around $950 more. The Board also approved a change in the tuition structure for incoming freshmen and transfer students. New students will now pay per credit for tuition instead of a flat rate cost for tuition that current full-time students pay.
With the tuition hike, the university is attempting to increase revenue while limiting expenditures as it continues to deal with budget difficulties. David Hanson, vice president of finance and administration at VCU, said the changes are difficult to make.
“We’re not just asking students to pay more,” Hanson said. “We’re saying as a university we are committed to becoming more efficient, we’re committed to cutting costs, we are absolutely going to do our part.”
Following the economic downturn in 2008, VCU has struggled to regain adequate state funding while funding planned expansion. The university remains $52 million behind the 2008 levels in state funds, according to President Michael Rao.
“This is a difficult budget under any circumstances,” Rao wrote in an email. “We will all be affected by measures to cut costs and institute operational efficiencies. Those savings will be reallocated to student financial aid and other academic support. We are also asking students and families to invest more in their education.”
Hanson said the highest priorities for VCU are faculty retention and increasing student services. Although a 4 percent increase in tuition is undesirable, he said, VCU has operated under a budget deficit for some time.
The Board approved tuition changes and others yesterday, including a move to outsource housekeeping and maintenance operations to help close an estimated $13.3 million shortfall in state funding.
Students and administrators discussed possible tuition increases and other changes for the 2013-2014 school year during a forum discussion in the Ginter House Board Room on Tuesday afternoon.
David Hanson, vice president for finance and administration, and Beverly Warren, the provost of VCU, led the discussion with 14 students. The present group of administrative faculty had met before with consultants from outside organizations, other universities and multiple VCU boards to discuss their plans to change the current tuition fee model, according to Hanson.
A group of 14 students and university administrators met to discuss next year’s possible tuition changes, including a proposal that would begin charging students based on how many credit hours they take. All proposals still have to be discussed and voted on by the Board of Visitors on May 10. Photo by Zach Heerbrandt
Hanson and Warren said multiple tuition fee model ideas came out of budget discussions, and the administration is leaning toward a per-credit hour pricing model for the 2013-2014 school year.
“This is basically, you pay for what you consume,” Warren said. “You will be charged smaller amounts for the number of credit hours rather than a larger flat rate fee … in the long run you will actually save money … you will pay a little bit more per semester but you will save money on your entire schooling.”
Many of the students present were bothered but unsurprised by the tuition fee increase. Some were apprehensive about the possible new per-credit model. Elizabeth Forbes, a senior art history and communication arts major, said that if the university were to apply the per-credit-hour model, it would be a good idea to lessen the number of required general education classes that have no relation to their major.
“Some of us with particular majors will have to take more than four years (of classes) to get our bachelor’s degree due to these classes that may have absolutely nothing to do with what we are studying,” Forbes said. “If you are going to charge us per credit hour, can you at least reduce the number of these non-major classes we have to take … that way, we may even graduate on time.”
Vicente Gonzalez, a senior intercultural communications major, said during the meeting that he is apprehensive about some programs the university already has in place that he said have made no visible impact to the student body.
“This entire meeting is good, symbolically. However, all the officials outside this meeting seem to already have made up their mind on what they want to do,” Gonzalez said. “The Quest for Distinction and the other programs the school proposed and put into action don’t seem to be doing their jobs if we keep on having to increase our fees, and our quality of education doesn’t seem to change.”
Hanson said factors outside the university are requiring VCU to change the model and there will be at least a minimal increase in their tuition fee.
“The governor is asking us to increase the number of faculty we have and promote more in-state students to come to our university,” Hanson said. “These are things that we are more than happy to have … but since the state can only provide us money for what is basically less than 60 percent of our unavoidable costs. … These things are difficult to maintain without raising fees or cutting spending to provide or improve the quality of education we want to give you.”
Hanson said modifications will also be made to encourage students to sign up for more, rather than fewer, classes if the change takes place, including possible discounts for students taking 15 credits or more. Hanson also said this model would likely only be applied to incoming students.
According to Warren, while the cost of tuition will likely increase, the university is also finding ways to decrease spending.
“We will renew some of our contracts and find less expensive ways to spend for non-core materials and items,” Warren said. “The fee increase will go to hiring more faculty, attracting better faculty such as endowed professors and giving you better facilities and improving the facilities we already have.”
Williamsburg, Va. A minimum 4 percent increase in tuition and a change to a per-credit payment structure were proposed in a budget presentation to the VCU Board of Visitors on Sunday.
David Hanson, VCU’s senior vice president for finance and administration, proposed changing the tuition structure of the university from a flat rate for full-time students to a per-credit basis for tuition.
Hanson said there will be downsides to any proposed budget solution, but said there is no easy way to solve the financial problems. He proposed a few strategies to solve budgetary issues including increasing tuition by at least 4 percent, charging more for on-campus parking and creating a full slate of summer classes for students.
“Anything we can do to help (students) get to a degree faster, even if it might cost a bit more for the incoming students to get to that 15-hour point … it’s going to be a huge gain because they’re not going to have $50,000 to $60,000 more in debt,” Hanson said.
President Michael Rao introduced some proposals for VCU’s yearly budget to the members of the Board and expressed his concerns about rising tuition, cost for students and finding appropriate funding for other university expenses.
“I’m going to continue to do everything I can, my team will continue to do everything that they can to continue to escalate the substantial progress that we’ve made in these areas but we’ve got some work to do and we’ve got to start thinking,” Rao said.
Undergraduate students currently registered for 12 to 18 credits are classified as full-time and charged a flat rate for tuition, according to the Fall 2012-Spring 2013 Tuition, Fees & Other Expenses report.
In 2012, the Board of Visitors approved an annual tuition cost of $9,885.46 for in-state undergraduate students for the 2012-2013 school year, an increase of 3.87 percent from the previous academic year. A minimum 4 percent increase in tuition next year could cost students nearly $400 more annually.
“The pros and cons to this really come down to are we willing to charge students as consumers for what they consume knowing that the kids who take 15, 16, 17 hours are going to be paying a little bit more than the current pricing schedule,” Hanson said.
Hanson estimated that it takes an average student at VCU between five and six years to graduate, costing them more over time in tuition and living expenses. One of Hanson’s proposals included changing the tuition structure of the university from block-based tuition for full-time students to a per-credit basis for tuition and encouraging students to take more classes each semester. Although it may cost more initially, Hanson said, taking more classes now will reduce the overall cost of attending college for more than four years.
Each of the budget dynamics falls in line with the five outlined strategies of the Quest for Distinction, according to Hanson.
Rao said he wants to increase some key areas of raising money for the university, including increasing fundraising projects and to “create a culture of giving that begins with the students.” Rao said VCU needs to make sure the university continues to be competitive with comparable institutions.
“We need to be thinking about prudent, and I will say ethical and moral investment, and financial management to ensure that we have the competitive returns that are necessary for the success of our students and our faculty,” he said.
The Board discussed the struggle to balance revenues from tuition with university expenditures, including new building projects, additional student services and new faculty hires. Currently, in the six-year capital plan for VCU’s developing projects, including new buildings or needed renovations, 27 projects have received no source of secured funding yet. VCU expects to receive $9.7 million from the state in the upcoming months, and would receive an additional 8.7 million from tuition if increased by only 4 percent, according to the budget presentation.
“It’s just an incredible amount of need for limited resources,” said Board of Visitors vice rector William Ginther.
“I think what everybody’s the most worried about is how can we come up with a number that makes sense and it’s not going to impact students but at the same time it’s going to allow VCU to move ahead,” he said.
Pamela Lepley, a spokesperson for VCU, said a tuition increase will no longer take care of all the financial problems of the university, and the school has to also keep in mind what is affordable by students.
“It’s a complicated issue, but in the end it’s being very creative and business-like and moving VCU forward so that students get a good education and get it in four years with minimum impact,” she said.
A full budget proposal will be presented to the board during their May 10 meeting when they will vote on the budget and the cost of tuition for the 2013-2014 school year. The Board is legally responsible for passing a balanced budget, according to Hanson, or else they will have to pay the difference themselves.
But even with needed improvements to the campus, some students are reacting negatively to the proposed changes. Bria Crawford, a junior public relations major said rising tuition makes it harder for her to stay in school. “They need to lower tuition,” she said. “I came here in (2009) and the cost has gone up greatly, and I can’t afford it.”
Crawford said she had to take at least one semester off because she couldn’t afford school. “At the end of the day … I don’t see the point in raising tuition. We pay enough … it shouldn’t be that much to pay for an education.”
Crawford also said that if VCU changed the tuition structure to a per-credit payment system, then she and other students she knows would likely take less credits each semester, even though that may mean staying in college longer.
“If it helps then I say I’m in favor of it because I’m in the more 12-to-13 credit load,” Crawford said.
The children of nearly 6,500 faculty members of public universities in Virginia could receive a 50 percent tuition waiver if a bill passes through the House, is signed into law and funded.
Senate Bill 104, proposed by Sen. John S. Edward, D-Roanoke, passed unanimously through the Senate two weeks ago and is currently in the House Appropriations subcommittee for Higher Education.
If passed, the program would only be initiated if enough money is budgeted by the General Assembly to fund it.
According to an estimate of fiscal impact published by the Department of Planning and Budget, the average cost of mandatory tuition and fees at four-year state schools is $9,534.
To fund a single student for four years, it would cost more than $19,000, an amount that would increase if the student did not graduate on time.
The legislation creates the Dependent Children of University and College Faculty Reduced Tuition Fund, which will be managed by the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia. However, if no money is budgeted for the fund, the cost of implementing the tuition waiver would be absorbed by each university.
Despite its pitfalls, the bill’s possible benefits give its supporters reason for optimism.
“Virginia has taken a look at (tuition waivers), and it is of interest to faculty because it recognizes they have college education expenses for their children and it attracts people to the university,” said David Fauri, president of the VCU Faculty Senate.
Although a tuition waiver is supported by many faculty members, the VCU Faculty Senate has not taken an official position on the bill, Fauri said.
Tuition waivers are granted at some major public universities across the country but there is currently no mandated tuition waiver for family members of faculty members who work for any public institution in the commonwealth, including VCU.
The benefit is more commonly given by private universities as a way to compete for faculty members, Fauri said.
In Virginia, Old Dominion University has a tuition-waiver program for faculty and staff, but it’s limited to six credit-hours per semester and to employees with incomes below $89,000. The University of Richmond also offers a tuition waiver to faculty members, said Mark E. Smith, senior director for Governmental Relations at VCU.
“(VCU) is certainly in favor of anything that provides benefits to faculty and staff,” Smith said.
The way it is currently worded, the bill would only benefit the children of faculty members of public universities, but not children of staff.
The measure would require that the faculty members have taught at least seven years at Virginia state schools for their children to qualify for the waiver.
The bill is on the docket for the scheduled Monday afternoon meeting of the House Appropriations subcommittee for higher education on Feb. 27.
With state legislators making sharp cuts to the funding of public colleges, average tuition and fees edging more than $8,000 per year and frustration over the ever-mounting credit debt of recent college graduates coming to a boil, college students are surely in need of financial aid or reform.
In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama threatened to cut federal funds to colleges and universities if they failed to stabilize and control the rising cost of tuition.
But will the president’s threats draw the desired reaction? Probably not.
While his proposal sounds tough, and every sane person is in favor of decreasing the cost of college, it also sounds a bit unlikely and paradoxical.
Colleges raise the cost of tuition to do a number of necessary things that keep their institution afloat, as well as adjusting for the cost of inflation. In fact, the rising tuition costs are a direct response to budgetary cuts from federal and state governments.
The federal funding that colleges and universities receive comes in the form of research funds, Pell Grants and subsidized loans. Cuts to those funds would mostly harm students, either through their wallets or through the lost opportunity to conduct valuable university research that can be put on their résumés.
If the president intends to punish the institutes in this manner, it can and will have a detrimental and direct effect upon students.
Federal funding has become decentralized from the institutions; instead of fueling and funding the actual colleges, most of the financial aid follows the individual student, for better or for worse.
Furthermore, cutting federal funding for colleges if they don’t lower or maintain cost sounds an awful lot like an unfunded mandate, similar to former President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Act, which critics derailed as a drain on state coffers.
But something must be done, and as ideologically dismissive as the notion may be for some, the federal government must be the one to take action.
Contrary to what some of the president’s conservative critics might believe, the federal government absolutely has a place in the financial regulation of higher education. Our nation’s ability to prosper economically is now more than ever reliant on the academic success of students, particularly those majoring in hard sciences, business and engineering.
Higher education should not be a luxury; luxuries are for the few: the metaphorical 1 percent. If the country as a whole is to prosper, success must be built from the bottom up. The construction of a mansion begins with the floor, not the chimney.
The educational sector must not be forced to make any additional sacrifices. Years of budget cuts and financial slights from both the federal and state government have put them in this corner. It’s not a point of pride when university presidents are forced to discuss the prices of their schools. The academic exclusivity colleges and universities tout should arise from academic performance, not high price tags.
President Obama has made some valuable achievements to make a college degree more accessible for students, including doubling funds for Pell Grants, capping the maximum amount of monthly student-loan repayment and introducing the $2,500 American Opportunity tax credit for tuition expenses. But now it’s time for our elected leaders to show their commitment to American students.
Only the power of cold, wordy legislation from Congress can bring about the education reforms students need.
Months before it actually happened, a number of our opinion columnists predicted the rise in tuition and discussed both the possibilities and consequences of it.
At the time, the potential for an increase seemed to be a distant possibility, but as of May 2011, the VCU’s tuition cost has increased by almost 8%. While 8% percent may seem slight, it means out-of-state students will pay an additional $1000 and in-state students will be paying an additional $700, amounts significant enough that they might discourage current students already struggling to make ends meet and potential students that see the increase as a consistent trend.
Although the Board of Visitor’s decision to increase VCU’s cost of tuition is not without logic and valid reasoning, I cannot help but disagree with the underlying premise that the university’s students alone should incur the cost of increased tuition as a result of the $41 million decrease in federal and state funding. The burden ought to be shared throughout all levels of the university in order to lessen the pain, meaning that administrators and faculty members might need to take pay cuts, while students simultaneously face an increase cost of attendance or forgo certain student services.
By showing solidarity during these tough economic times, VCU will curve its growing reputation for consistently raising the cost of attendance in some manner, show a level of humanity not normally seen by large institutions, and reassure its students that the university is committed to providing a quality education at a reasonable cost. Those three steps will greatly increase the school’s popularity, ensuring us a greater number of applicants in the following years, and solidifying the relationship between the school and current students that might feel that their academic experience here was dulled by their financial worries.
Maintaining the credibility of higher education is more necessary than ever now, as we reach a crossroad on the subject of the value of a college education. Public colleges and universities have a responsibility as educators to ensure they are doing their part to persuade people that college is worth the four years of stress and loans. A school’s choice to make education more inclusive and accessible to middle-class families has a significantly influence on the state and region’s economic health because a college education is so often a prerequisite for meaningful jobs. Raising tuition, or simply being viewed as a school with an unstable cost of attendance, only serves to dissuade people from attending, inhibit diversity in terms of economic class, and isolate students from the Richmond community.
VCU students, despite paying a tuition that is below state average, retain the right to protest any changes concerning the university that we find objectionable.
That right is not limited to any basketball games we lose or the annual increases in tuition we face; whatever you find objectionable, whether it be the campus cuisine, availability of classes, substandard on-campus housing, or absurd university policies concerning Nerf guns, let your voice be heard through one of the multitude of media outlets available to you.
In a May 20 email to VCU and the VCU Health System, president Michael Rao announced large cuts in state funding and a resulting $700 tuition increase for in-state students.
According to Rao’s email, VCU will receive $41 million less in government funding that was specifically allotted to support in-state student tuition.
Executive director of VCU media relations Pam Lepley said that besides the loss of a federal stimulus, most funding VCU lost is state funding.
Between fiscal years 2008 and 2012, state funding to VCU has been reduced by a total of $63.5 million. Between 2001 and 2011, cuts to VCU’s funding have resulted in the state funding $4,279 less per in-state student.
“If you had been a student in 2000, you would have $4,300 more dollars going to your education than you do now from the state,” Lepley said.
According to Lepley, public institutions that have more in-state students generally suffer more state funding cuts. With about 89 percent of the student body being in-state (the largest in the state), VCU is particularly susceptible to state funding cuts.
Lepley said state and federal cuts are a reflection of the current economic climate and that across the nation, funding for higher education has been significantly decreased.
Eighty-one percent of tuition and fees goes toward instructional and student support, which includes research and instruction. Approximately 10 percent goes toward institutional support, which includes things like safety and security. The remaining 9 percent is allotted for building and ground maintenance, which includes things like lighting, utilities, building and grounds maintenance and recycling.
According to VCU’s 2011-2012 myTuition website, the funds from the tuition and fees increase will help alleviate the loss of federal and state funding as well as support limited increases in funding for more faculty, library materials, student recruitment, scholarships and research.
The tuition increase will not cover new construction projects, dining services, housing, parking or campus artwork.
The $700 increase for in-state students reduced the university’s $41 million shortfall to less than $8 million. The remaining costs can be covered by federal stimulus funds, though these funds will not be available after the first quarter of 2012.
In an era of education budget cuts and rising tuition costs, Tennessee’s University of the South, better known as Sewanee, is moving in a different direction than most colleges and cutting its tuition by 10 percent.
Their unconventional approach to solving financial woes may very well be a solution to the rising cost of higher education.
For the most part, colleges and universities are raising tuition out of necessity to stay afloat, not just to pay for higher salaries or luxurious building projects. But we’re paying more money for an education that isn’t necessarily of higher quality and a degree that means less and less.
According to the Business Insider and the Trading Report, the unemployment rate for college graduates under the age of 25 is more than nine percent. 24.5 percent of all retail sales persons have a college degree and about two million recent college graduates that are currently unemployed. While college degrees have a substantial impact on one’s future career and earnings, it means little if students are held back by debt and unpaid student loans while working low-salary jobs.
Public schools shouldn’t rely on increases in tuition as a response to funding cuts by state legislators because it brings them into the realm of cost dominated by private schools. Once the tuition cost of public schools enter that realm, students may begin to choose private over public, further endangering the existence of public universities that also have to compete with the academic quality of private institutions.
By removing the financial barrier that a high tuition places, colleges increase the populace’s accessibility to higher education. Both out-of-state and in-state students that would have initially been dissuaded from college by the cost will be more apt to apply and students in danger of dropping out because of the cost will stay.
While an increase in the number of individuals attending college isn’t clearly good on its own, an increase of students coupled with higher standards and expectations will remove the individuals that do not contribute to the well-being of the campus community, promote a spirit of excellence on campus and raise the school’s reputation. This will also increase the number of endowments and donations from private donors and alumni.
Sewanee’s philosophy leads them to believe that if they “lower the cost of higher education, people might owe a debt to society, rather than to a bank.” The role of colleges and universities ought to be primarily about providing an education to students, not providing an education to just those whom can afford it.
While today’s higher tuitions are a sign of necessity rather than greed, decreasing the accessibility of higher education and devaluing the college experience with low quality education isn’t the solution. Although lowering tuition by just 10 percent doesn’t make a large dent in the expense of college overall, it has both a real and symbolic meaning to struggling families. It’s time for public colleges to follow Sewanee’s lead, embrace minimalism and realize that education and students should come first.
Keep colleges open to non-Virginians, students say
Robin Hertel and Rebecca León
Virginia’s public colleges and universities should keep their doors open to out-of-state students and should not charge them excessive tuition, student leaders told state officials this week.
That was the message when the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia met with its Student Advisory Committee to discuss the pros and cons of out-of-state students in the commonwealth’s four-year public institutions.
The discussion was triggered by a recent increase of $5 per credit hour in out-of-state student fees. While that represents only a 1 percent boost, many fear that the tuition hikes will not stop there, forcing out-of-state students to reconsider coming to Virginia schools. That would hurt the state’s colleges and universities, members of the advisory committee said.
They said out-of-state students contribute to both the academic and social atmosphere of a college campus.
“With fewer non-Virginian people, the more unrealistic our environment becomes,” said Sam Protich, an in-state student at the University of Mary Washington. “There would be less cross-pollination of ideas.”
Others on the advisory panel agreed that out-of-state students enhance the college experience by adding diversity of thought both inside and outside the classroom.
Besides diversity, out-of-state students offer something else: money. They typically pay twice as much as in-state students to receive a college education in Virginia.
According to statistics from SCHEV, the proportion of out-of-state students attending Virginia schools has decreased in recent years.
Between 1999 and 2010, the percentage of out-of-state student enrollment declined at seven of the 15 four-year public schools in Virginia. The largest drop was at Radford University, which in the past decade has lost nearly half its out-of-state undergraduate enrollment.
VCU, on the other hand, more than doubled its percentage of out-of-state student enrollment in that time period. About 10 percent of VCU’s undergraduates are from out of state.
Statewide, the percent of undergraduate students from outside Virginia dropped from 19.6 percent in 1999 to 18.8 percent in 2009. Out-of-state students make up about one third of the undergraduates at the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary.
Legislation introduced in this year’s General Assembly sought to cap the number of out-of-state students being admitted to Virginia institutions. House Bill 1026 triggered passionate feedback from representatives of the seven state schools who attended Monday’s meeting with SCHEV.
Delegate Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, wanted to restrict most public colleges and universities from admitting more than 25 percent of out-of-state students. The bill failed in committee for the fourth time since 2006. When asked whether they would support such legislation, members of the Student Advisory Committee said “no.”
“Schools need to operate autonomously,” said Brittany Anderson, an in-state student at Virginia Tech. “They should be able to shape their student bodies in a way that fits their university and in a way that has been working for them.”
The general attitude on the advisory panel was that in-state students must put their best work forward when forced to compete with out-of-state students. Student leaders agreed that no one was entitled to a spot in the state’s higher education system; acceptance should be based on academic caliber.
Kristen Twiford, an out-of-state student at the University of Virginia, left the panel with a thoughtful question regarding the changing populations of in-state and out-of-state students.
“Would the academic experience be the same if the balance was different?”
Virginia’s out-of-state students – by the numbers
Four-year public colleges
Out-of-state undergraduate students
Out-of-state undergraduate tuition
In-state undergraduate tuition
College of William and Mary
Christopher Newport University
George Mason University
James Madison University
Norfolk State University
Old Dominion University
University of Mary Washington
University of Virginia
University of Virginia’s College at Wise
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Military Institute
Virginia State University
Source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
Board of Visitors student representatives J.T. Stranix and Jet Aiken work to bring student concerns, such as like tuition increase and budget cuts, to the board. In this audio segment, they discuss how they gather student feedback and what issues they plan to address.
Students can contact Stranix and Aiken directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Student Representative for Board of Visitors Facebook page.