VCU board of visitors considers next year’s budget proposals

The VCU Board of Visitors, senior vice president and chief financial officer Karol Gray, met on Friday to discuss next year's budget and state funding for the university. Photo by Enza Marcy

Katie Hollowell, Contributing Writer

Three proposals for next year’s university budget created by Gov. Ralph Northam, the state Senate and the House of Delegates were outlined at VCU’s board of visitors meeting on Friday, showing a range of potential outcomes regarding tuition increases and new state funding.

Northam’s proposal does not include new state funding or salary increases for the university. 

“The governor’s proposal is really not one that makes anyone happy,” said VCU senior vice president and chief financial officer Karol Gray.

The House proposal includes new state funding of $17.3 million, a renewed tuition freeze into 2021 and a salary increase of 1% with a 1% bonus mandated by the state at VCU’s cost. 

Last year, the board of visitors voted to freeze tuition for the 2019-20 academic school year for the first time in 20 years after the General Assembly allocated money in the budget to freeze tuition across the state.

The state Senate proposal would grant $5.7 million in new state funds, a 3% salary increase in 2022 and no renewed freeze on tuition. 

“We are receiving the highest proportion of state support among our peer institutions,” Gray said, referencing a calculation from House Appropriations Committee fiscal analyst Anthony Maggio. 

Gray said Maggio’s calculation is based on a six-year plan from Virginia state schools that uses the same methodology used by the House to calculate the support that each institution should receive. 

“This is a great thing,” Gray said. “It kind of resolves the issues of the lack of state support that higher education took before the recession, this kind of recovery of funds that we lost because of the declining state revenues.” 

Allocating cuts

Gail Hackett, VCU provost and vice president for academic affairs, said schools within the university that did not achieve their objectives and admission goals for the 2019-20 academic year will receive cuts next year and need to focus on the following:

  • Growing enrollment 
  • Attracting out-of-state applicants 
  • Putting a freeze on hiring 
  • Adjusting course sizes
  • Eliminating classes

Each school had to submit a plan for how they would cover their cuts and submit it for review. The schools that will receive cuts weren’t named at the meeting, but Hackett said her office is continuously following up with leaders from each on issues like student retention.

Hackett says VCU is using disaggregated data to zero in on schools with the highest retention issues.

Community engagement

University spokesperson Pam Lepley spoke at the board meeting about the future of VCU’s brand. She outlined four “brand messaging pillars” for the university’s new recruitment ads: authentically diverse, intimately urban, academically rigorous and health centric. 

VCU is committing part of its digital advertising to recruiting potential students during the period from when they start thinking about college to when they begin applying. Another goal is to promote current students’ success in order to position VCU against the nation’s elite universities.

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