The Student Government Association and Board of Visitors’ student representatives answered questions about the proposed 6.4 percent tuition and fees increase Wednesday.
According to the VCU budget website, the budget redesign initiative began in 2014, the proposed budget is currently being observed in parallel to the current budget and full implementation of the new budget begin the 2019-20 school year.
Karol Gray, vice president of finance and budget, facilitated the presentation. The following data was presented at the information session in a slideshow, courtesy of the VCU office of budget and resource analysis.
Decreased state funding and underfunded initiatives
As of fiscal year 2017, state funding for VCU stands around 31 percent. Therefore, student tuition and fees make up for the other 69 percent of the university’s income. In fiscal year 2001, VCU received 68 percent of its revenue from the state, while only 32 percent came from tuition and fees. The decrease in state funding over this time period is because of the 2008 recession, when overall tax revenue became sparse.
Despite VCU having more in-state students than other tier three Virginia colleges, which are defined as major public research universities, it is still one of the more expensive schools in Virginia in regard to tuition and fees. VCU currently ranks No. 5 in the state for the most expensive education and general fees. The most costly school is the College of William & Mary, which is about $8,500 more expensive to attend per year.
“We compared ourselves in instruction, institutional support, academic support and student support,” Gray said. “VCU is underfunded in every category. I can tell you that the tier three schools are really prospering [because] they’re well funded.”
Some deferred initiatives due to lack of funds were improved academic advising, competitive adjunct faculty pay (and their subsequent recruitment and retention), increased instructional space and increased financial aid.
Gray said the university’s intentions are not to load excess price tags onto students, but the consequences of a lack of state funding ultimately will affect students’ pockets.
“Everything that this university has done in the past has been sensitive to putting the burden back on the student,” she said. “But, we have to start working toward where we’re going, and have reasonable increases to support the things that we deserve to have. We can’t stay mediocre.”
Increased tuition and fees and prioritized needs
Gray said the university will be proposing a 6.4 percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees for fiscal year 2019. This will result in a predicted $860 increase for undergraduate residents and $2,140 increase for undergraduate non-resident student expenses per year. Mandatory fees include the university technology, library, health services and student activity fees.
As for non-mandatory fees, typical housing units, dining rates and parking rates are expected to increase about 3 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively. Gray said regardless of how the state decides to allocate funds, she has to confirm the university’s 2019 budget with the Board in May.
“We don’t know what we’re getting from the state. For every percent that we raise tuition, it brings in $3 million of new money,” Gray said. “So, even if [the state] gave up $3 million … it will automatically have an impact on our tuition proposal. The problem I’m having is I have no clue what the state is doing.”
According to the presentation, among the “highest priority needs” the proposed increases will address are salary increases for university staff and faculty, strategic hires, adjunct pay increase, faculty promotions and undergraduate financial aid.
“Adjuncts are going to get the adjustment ASAP,” Gray said.
Destinee Moragne, SGA president and coordinator of Wednesday’s event, said this information is accessible, but that the administration needs to make a better effort to spread awareness about monetary issues. She suggested having professors include tuition information in their syllabi.
“[We’re] making sure that we’re being as transparent as possible and we’re increasing our communication between us, the administration and the student body,” she said. “We could work to almost put it in students’ faces so they couldn’t ignore it.”
Correction: April 18, 2018
An earlier version of this article said VCU received 62 percent of its revenue from the state, while only 32 percent came from tuition and fees. VCU receives 68 percent of its revenue from the state.
Clarification: April 18, 2018
An earlier version of this article indicated a 6.4 percent increase in tuition would result in a $860 to $2,140 increase in a single undergraduate student’s expenses per year. The $860 increase is for undergraduate residents and the $2,140 increase is for undergraduate non-resident student expenses.
Nia Tariq, Staff Writer