Katie Hollowell, Contributing Writer
A budget proposal from the Virginia House of Delegates would grant VCU $17.3 million in new funding for tuition assistance and salaries — the most of any public institution — with the condition that the university freeze tuition again.
The next-highest allocation would be to James Madison University for $8 million, followed by the University of Virginia with $7 million.
“The House has really driven the conversations for higher education funding over the past couple of cycles,” said VCU executive director of government and board relations Matt Conrad.
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 for a tuition freeze across all Virginia colleges.
This appropriation comes from general funding for public universities that don’t increase tuition and mandatory fees from one year to the next. In this case, in order to receive the funds, the institutions would not be able to increase tuition or mandatory fees for in-state students during the 2020-21 academic year.
The House proposal also includes a salary increase of 1% with a 1% bonus mandated by the state at VCU’s cost.
“We are receiving the highest proportion of state support among our peer institutions,” said Karol Gray, VCU senior vice president and chief financial officer.
Due to having more than 80% in-state enrollment and being one of the largest universities in Virginia, VCU depends on general funding from the state. That’s why House Appropriations Committee fiscal analyst Tony Maggio said the university could receive the largest amount of additional state funding.
Maggio’s calculation is based on a six-year plan that came out of the Top Jobs Act of 2011, which aimed to increase college attainment and address enrollment funding as well as need-based financial aid.
“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.”
Maggio said if any school doesn’t meet the condition, their state funding will go back into a central pool and get reallocated. The last time this central pool reallocation was presented was in the 2008 House proposal.
Gov. Ralph 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,” Gray said.
The state Senate proposal would grant $5.7 million in new state funds annually in 2021 and 2022, a 3% salary increase in 2022 and no renewed freeze on tuition.