Tuition increases as state funding declines

Illustration by Sagal Hassan.

Matt Leonard
Staff Writer

Tuition hikes at VCU will likely continue after the board of visitors proposed a tuition increase at their budget workshop last Monday.

With Virginia state funding steadily on the decline for all in-state schools, VCU sees raising tuition by 3.5 percent in the 2015 fiscal year as a viable option to maintain operations. Since 2001, state funding for VCU has dropped by approximately $4,000 per full-time student. In the same amount of time, tuition has increased by approximately $9,000 per full-time student.

In 2014, VCU’s in-state tuition was $12,002, making it the fourth-most expensive public university in Virginia. The Board of Visitors said the increased tuition is needed for the university to become a serious contender as a research institution.

While VCU is currently home to more Virginia residents than any other college, the university wants to begin to “diversify” its tuition. This means bringing in more out-of-state students, whose tuition costs are higher.

President Rao noted in the budget workshop that Virginia Tech and University of Virginia have high enrollments of out-of-state students; their higher tuition covers more costs for the institution.

The university budget for 2015 has also outlined $2.2 million in unavoidable costs and $26.4 million in high-priority requests. These requests include VCU’s Quest for Distinction and a pay increase for professors.

VCU wants to increase the number of full-time faculty, but to fulfill this goal, salaries will have to be competitive with other institutions.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia places VCU in the 31st percentile of peer institutions. VCU pays faculty 18 to 25 percent less than U.Va. and VT.

The VCU budget for the 2015 fiscal year might not matter, however, because the Virginia state government has failed to pass a budget for 2015. This leaves state institutions, like VCU, to wonder where their funding will come from.

Now in a three-week special session, the state government must agree on a budget by June 30. The state will otherwise go through another “shut down,” similar to the one which occurred on a national level in Washington, D.C. at the end of 2013.

As a state institution, VCU can not spend money unless it is allocated to the university from the state. The board of visitors stated that during a shutdown this would not be possible.

Rao said in the budget workshop that the university will have to ask permission from the state to operate on a continuing basis.

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