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VCU’s senior leadership proposed two options for tuition increases that will affect students differently at last week’s Board of Visitors meeting.
The proposals include either a 2.77 percent ($344) or 3.02 percent ($374) tuition increase. Students living on-campus will be hit harder due to the rising cost of housing and mandatory fees; they will see possible increases of 2.82 percent ($612) or 3.09 percent ($670). Out-of-state students will see hikes of either $918 or $1,004, depending on the option chosen.
Of the more than $530 million in revenue VCU brought in during the 2013-2014 school year, almost 66 percent was from tuition.
“These budget recommendations reflect sensitivity to the cost of higher education at a major public research institution and our responsibility to provide a high quality education — a strong return on students’ significant investment,” VCU President Michael Rao said in the press release.
When the Virginia state government cut education spending in September of last year, VCU predicted a 2 percent increase in tuition.
In 2004, Virginia’s Joint Subcommittee on Higher Education Funding Policy decided the state should pay 67 percent of the cost for funding institution base operations, leaving students to shoulder the remainder.
VCU hasn’t experienced a similar split in funding since 2001, when state funding was more than $10,000 per full-time student and tuition was just over $5,000.
As the cost of college has risen for students, borrowing loans has also skyrocketed. Between 2008 and 2013 the average debt Virginia students are left with at graduation has risen to more than $6,000.
State funding will increase VCU’s available funds for need-based support to $11.49 million. There will also be an increase in merit based aid for student recruiting purposes.
A study from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia from last month said that current levels of financial aid simply aren’t high enough to meet need and students from underprivileged backgrounds are disproportionately affected.
“Regardless of the reasons, higher prices mean fewer families can gain the education and training they need to grow and prosper in their communities,” the report read.
The study found that an “enrollment gap” between students who have different financial stability has not budged, even though enrollment overall has risen. Less than one in four “lowest-income Virginia students” go to four-year universities, but 90 percent of the richest students go to four-year universities, according to the report.
Low-income students who do attend college are almost 11 percent more likely to not re-enroll after their first year when compared to students with more financial stability.
At VCU alone the number of students in the first quartile of family income — the least well off — have dropped by almost 2,000 between the 2009 and 2013 school years.
The study did not offer much hope for the future and said it’s an issue the state government will have to tackle — as this last legislative session showed us. Addition funds have been given to schools, reports have been requested, but nothing dramatic.
“Public higher education today is at a crossroads,” the study said.
VCU’s finalized budget will be announced on May 8.