Board member speaks out against tuition increase

Robert Holsworth
Guest Columnist

At its final meeting last spring, the VCU Board of Visitors voted on tuition increases for the 2013-14 academic year. The majority of the Board supported a 4.2 percent increase for returning students and an increase of 21 percent to 27 percent for new incoming students. Alex McMurtrie and I were the two Board members who publicly spoke out against the proposal and voted against it.

Our decision to resist the pressures to have unanimous Board support for the increases was not taken lightly. But we felt that the administration’s proposal, especially the massive increase for new incoming students, undermined VCU’s historic commitment to affordability and accessibility, will burden VCU students and their parents with an unacceptable debt load and was conveyed in a manner that downplayed and perhaps even disguised the extent of the increase.

Let me try to briefly explain each of these points.

Robert Holsworth was one of two Board members to publicly oppose the tuition increase.  Photo courtesy of the VCU School of Humanities and Sciences.
Robert Holsworth was one of two Board members to publicly oppose the tuition increase.
Photo courtesy of the VCU School of Humanities and Sciences.

Affordability and Accessibility

Throughout its history, VCU has been a university that has had a special responsibility in the commonwealth to providing an affordable, world-class education and economic opportunity to first generation college students and to groups who have been traditionally underserved. For example, the average parental income of VCU students has traditionally been far lower than that of students at the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary. Given this situation, VCU has historically worked to maintain tuition at the lowest possible level while providing our students with educational opportunities that equal or exceed those of any institution in Virginia.

I believe decisions that have been made in the last few years to jack up tuition at rates exceeding 20 percent are effectively subverting the VCU’s traditional commitment to affordability and accessibility. As a Board member, I have become extremely concerned, for instance, that the percentage of African-American students in VCU’s freshman class has apparently dropped by about 30 percent in the last four years.

Crushing Student Debt

In almost every study that I have seen, VCU students already carry an extraordinarily high debt load. According to the Project on Student Debt, VCU students currently have the second highest debt service of any public university in Virginia. More than 62 percent of our students graduate with debt and the average debt load now exceeds $27,000.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the implications of the recent tuition increases for this debt load. Given the importance of a college education to economic opportunity, I doubt that many students will forego attending VCU. But what will happen, without a doubt, is student and parents are likely to increase the amount of debt that they assume by a considerable amount in order to obtain the advantages that VCU provides. The decision to raise tuition by 21 percent to 27 percent for incoming students is effectively a decision to saddle VCU students with the highest debt load of any public university in the commonwealth.


One of the reasons that Mr. McMurtrie and I were so vocal at the Board meeting in calling attention to the massive increase for incoming students is that it was originally portrayed as simply a change in pricing structure (moving to pay per-credit hour pricing) and not as a tuition hike.

Indeed, none of the original materials that I received called it an increase. In addition, I have been personally told by a number of people in the governor’s office that they were not informed an increase of this size was being contemplated.

Yet every independent, subsequent analysis of what occurred has reinforced the notion that new, incoming students who will be taking enough credits each semester (15-18 credit hours) to graduate in four years are facing a huge tuition hike. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee of the Virginia General Assembly issued a report on tuition and fees in the commonwealth clearly stating that VCU’s tuition increase for new students was a minimum of 21 percent.

My only regret in voting against the tuition hike was that Mr. McMurtrie and I were not able to convince the majority of the Board to see things our way. I am optimistic that by publicly airing our concerns, it will become increasingly difficult to continue making these massive increases in the future.

Robert Holsworth is a member of the VCU Board of Visitors and a former Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. 


  1. cymbalta and high blood pressure duloxetine cost . cymbalta day 1 cymbalta long term effects cymbalta side effects in men is there a generic for cymbalta duloxetine cymbalta coupons for cymbalta 60 mg . what is duloxetine used for price of generic cymbalta duloxetine dr cymbalta overdose. cymbalta discounts can i stop taking cymbalta eli lilly cymbalta side effects cymbalta 60 mg weight gain .

  2. buy orlistat 120 mg xerograx orlistat 120 mg diet pills xenical success stories. orlistat buy orlistat how to take phentermine diets diet pills orlistat . is xenical effective can you buy orlistat over the counter . orlistat diet orlistat cena orlistat medication slimming tablets xenical orlistat 60 xenical 120 mg capsule

  3. what is oxycodone for where can i buy oxycodone 30mg online buy meds on line how to take oxycodone. how to buy pain meds online dosage oxycodone does percocet have codeine in it oxycodone 30 mg for sale online . generic roxy 30 mg 80 milligram oxycodone . roxicodone 20mg oxycodone 80 buy pain pills without prescription opiates online pharmacy how to get free pain pills oxycodone ir 30 mg

  4. tramadol 50mg ultram 50mg tramadol dosage get tramadol online . tramadol online legal tramadol hydrochloride tablets 50 mg can you buy tramadol online in uk tramadol hcl 50 mg tab . is tramadol a painkiller shingles head pain . buy tramadol overnight tramadol purchase online what is ultram 50 mg tramadol side effects withdrawal symptoms ultram side effects 50 mg tramadol anti inflammatory effect

  5. vicodon vicodin prescriptions . hydrocodone no rx what is the side effects of vicodin does vicodin reduce swelling does all vicodin have acetaminophen in it order vicodin no prescription canadian vicodin online . vicodin generic names buy liquid hydrocodone online vicodin pregnancy category vicodin online overnight delivery. vicodin milligrams long term effects of vicodin vicodin norco vicodin for cough relief .

Leave a Reply