University officials say VCU is considering its biggest tuition hike in years

Geo Mirador
President Rao addresses the audience at a forum. Photo by Geo Mirador.
Geo Mirador
President Rao addresses the audience at the forum. Photo by Geo Mirador.

VCU could raise tuition for in-state undergraduate students by up to 8 percent, according to a university spokesperson, a move which could result in students paying an additional thousand dollars next year.

The university’s budget proposal included a potential range of 6.8 to 8.1 percent for the hike, contingent on the state’s budget, which will be finalized in May. Tuition increased by 3.8 percent last year and has increased every year since 2001, in response to a decline in state funding.

This is a trend across the state. Tuition in 2016 was 74 percent higher at the average Virginia university than in 2006, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

On March 21, university president Michael Rao presented the Board of Visitors a budget which is 3.7 percent larger than last year’s. In the past four years, VCU has lost $34.3 million in state cuts. The plan may be altered when the state’s budget is finalized in May.

Proposals to attract more out-of-state students, increase pay for adjunct professors, and increase university fees were all included in the announcement.

VCU School of Arts adjuncts has been fighting for equitable pay since the fall of 2017. They delivered a petition with more than 1,300 signatures to the Board of Visitors in December requesting the university look at all forms of allocation outside of raising student tuition to achieve livable wage for adjuncts.

“They continue to link a hike in tuition to pay adjuncts a livable wage yet we continue to have building acquisitions, we continue to have one of the highest paid state employees work for VCU, which is President Rao,” said Tom Burkett, an adjunct in VCUarts, “yet we can’t come up with money to pay living wages to contingent faculty.”

Despite being addressed in the budget announcement, adjuncts are still in fear the raise won’t be guaranteed and the university will continue to ignore their concerns about being paid less than half the national average, without benefits.

Although the budget proposes an increase in undergraduate and graduate financial aid as well as additional funding for academic needs, such as advising, some students said they were confused about the necessity of a tuition increase.

Former VCU student Brenna Singer said she had to leave the university because of the increase.

“I am not a current student because of the annual increase in tuition,” Singer posted on Facebook. “I missed out on attending my dream school in my dream program because it was far too expensive. If I were still attending VCU I would be a 2019 Sculpture graduate in the School of the Arts.”

VCU spokesperson Michael Porter said the university reviewed the possibility of tuition guarantees, ensuring students pay the same they were promised when they entered the university but found it often means increases are built in before a student arrives as a freshman and some institutions continue to increase each year, anyway.

VCU’s Student Government Association and BOV Student Representatives are holding a forum Wed. April 11 from 6-7:30 p.m. in Cabell Library Room 250 to talk about the upcoming budget decision.

A final decision on the budget for next fiscal year will be made at the Board of Visitors meeting on May 11.

SaraRose Martin, News Editor

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