We usually complain about the high cost of tuition that rises every year and all of the things we’re not getting from our school. I, myself, have voiced many complaints about the way VCU handles finances. Except I realized that I often forget how much VCU does have to offer me.
More than 75 percent of our tuition and fees are for instructional and student support. Our institution provides more than 30,000 students with an education as well as health services and amenities.
Tuition and fees rose by about $300 from 2014 to 2015 for Virginia residents. With that minute increase, VCU was able to hire 41 new full-time teachers and 22 adjunct professors. Those funds were also used to increase financial aid for students by $1.2 million. With all of the fuss people made about higher tuition I had expected a dramatically larger bill this past year. That has not been case.
Housing, parking, dining, artwork and new construction are not included in student tuition and fees. So the desperately needed $50 million expansion of Cabell library was not paid for by the students. State bonds and donations finance most of those projects.
Cabell doesn’t just have student use computers and a very large collection of books. Many people are unaware of the large comic book collection and rental films and DVDs. Even RedBox isn’t as good as being free.
We also have a new state of the art educational building on Floyd Ave. The Academic Learning Commons has technologically advanced classrooms and more independent study spaces. These kinds of improvements directly impact our ability to learn.
VCU students have access to a variety of free mental health care and clinical services. Along with primary care services, the student health clinic offers discounted prescriptions and over the counter medications. With your ID card you can get free flu shots, HIV/STD testing and a free consultation with a nutritionist. I even got my teeth cleaned for free at the dental school as part of a teaching moment for one of their students.
A very important and underrated part of student health is the completely free counseling services. Any VCU student can make an appointment for one on one or group counseling. Whether you have a specific disorder or you just want to talk to someone, our university will provide a safe space for you.
My favorite facility by far is the Cary Street Gym. Gym memberships can cost a lot. As a VCU student we have access to a $40 million gym complete with a pool, indoor track and rock wall. I only just started attending the group exercise classes that we have full access to. There are classes every day that have everything from yoga to Zumba to salsa dancing lessons. Take advantage of it.
While we can agree that we all pay absorbent amounts of money for higher education, there are ways to get your money’s worth from your university. We can complain about tuition and fees but the reality is they are not changing any time soon. Like any investment, we have to understand the cost versus benefit. Every student gets an itemized bill with his or her account balance each semester so there’s no excuse not to know where your money is going. Be aware of what you’re actually paying for.