Tuition waiver bill to benefit faculty if passed, funded

Mark Robinson
Assistant News Editor

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.

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