In an email to the VCU community last Thursday, President Michael Rao stated the university presented a “conservative” 2016-17 budget proposal to the Board of Visitors, which includes a $358 (2.8 percent) tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students.
Rao emphasized in his email that the FY 2017 budget includes a $5.6 million increase in university-funded financial aid to help offset the hike in tuition for students with demonstrated need as well as $4.3 million for academic program growth and infrastructure, faculty recruitment and retention and safety and compliance infrastructure.
The new university budget also includes:
- A 1 percent transfer of funds from payroll to investments, which will provide more than $3 million for additional need-based financial aid students
- A $10 increase to the mandatory library fee
- An additional $88 fee, or 5 percent of the university fee, for “unavoidable cost increases,” Title IX training and enforcement initiatives, student counseling and other student services
“VCU’s budget tells a story,” Rao stated in his Thursday email. “We continue to come to terms with a fundamental change in the financing of higher education.”
Rao’s email explained that in the early 2000s, the state supported two-thirds the cost of the academic-instructional budget. In the last 15 years, that trend has reversed, and only around 30 percent of revenue now comes from state funding, and the remainder from tuition and fees.
Rao said VCU faces $24 million in unavoidable cost increases despite the General Assembly and Governor have worked to partially restore the deep cuts of the past.
“Throughout this change, our goal has been to strengthen VCU as a public research university by focusing on student success: ensuring access, affordability and timely degree completion,” Rao stated in his email.
University-funded financial aid increased by more than $25 million, from $5 million in 2008 to more than $30 million in 2017, according to Rao, who attributed the financial aid increases, more faculty positions and enhanced student services to VCU’s improved 4 and 6-year graduation rates.
“Very importantly we have closed the graduation gap, with our minority students graduating at the same or better rates than our white students,” Rao said.
VCU is one of four schools that have seen the net decrease in state funding from 1998 to 2012.
“I can say state legislatures who are arguing on the one hand ‘We don’t want to raise taxes, or use increased state revenue to pay for education,’ and then at the same time ask for caps on tuition increases, are proposing an imposable equation,” said VCU economics professor David Harless.
The increased cost being pushed on students can be broken down into a broad range of services. For example, one item in the budget proposal is a 3 percent increase for dining services which stems from ARAMARK, the company contracted by VCU to provide dining services, raising their consumer price index per-meal-served.
Parking services proposed a 4 percent increase to meet state laws regarding salary.
The largest increases are in the library fee, as the university, health services, student activity and technology fees will not see any increase.
The BOV will debate the budget on April 29 and vote during their May 13 meeting.
Online News Editor, Andrew Crider
Andrew is a junior economics major who has written for student newspapers since he was in high school. Andrew is interested in political history, aviation, photography and running. He has a tendency to refer to his peers, coworkers and bosses as “ma’am” or “sir,” but is getting better about referring to his friends at the CT by their first names instead. // Facebook
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