State budget restores $17 million for VCU

Erica Terrini

Executive Editor

The $17 million in funding that Gov. Bob McDonnell attempted to withhold from Virginia Commonwealth University was restored by the General Assembly when it approved amendments to the state budget Sunday.

The reallocation of funding was included in the amendments to the 2011-2012 state budget under House Bill 1500. The bill passed in the House on a 97-0 vote and in the Senate on a 40-0 vote.

“The budget today reflects a renewed commitment by the General Assembly that higher education must be moved to the front burner,” said Delegate Lacey Putney, I-Bedford, who served as the chairman of the conference committee that finalized the budget.

“We recognized that absent higher tuition increases, additional state funding would be needed if we are to meet the objectives outlined by the Governor’s Higher Education Commission.”

In his statement, Putney did not specifically address funding for VCU. However, officials said HB 1500 reversed McDonnell’s proposal to withhold $17 million from VCU.

In December, the governor said it was “unacceptable” for the VCU Board of Visitors to raise tuition by 24 percent last spring. That increase, including a $1,700 boost in tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates, was projected to generate $33.4 million.

To register his disapproval, McDonnell proposed cutting state funding to VCU by $17 million. That’s equal to half of what VCU’s tuition increase raised.

In response to the governor’s action, VCU President Michael Rao defended the tuition increase. “VCU has cut costs to the bone over the past several years,” and the university needed the money to maintain quality instruction, Rao said.

He promised to work with the governor and legislators to resolve the issue – and officials indicated that HB 1500 did not include the funding reduction.

The bill includes $3.3 million in state funds for VCU’s general fund budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year and $20.5 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to VCU’s Office of Government Relations.

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