Students at Virginia community colleges are girding for the first tuition hike in five years.
Piedmont Virginia Community College just south of Charlottesville says it both supports and understands the decision that the state board has said was made to cover the increased costs of compensation and benefits. PVCC told The Daily Progress it is already working with students who may need financial assistance.
Tuition at community colleges across the commonwealth are set to increase 3%, an additional $4.61 per credit hour, after a unanimous decision by the State Board for Community Colleges earlier this month. The decision was originally set for May but was delayed due to the lack of state budget.
“And we’re now at the point where it’s July and since state budget deliberations are ongoing, the state board truly determined that a tuition increase was necessary,” Susan Pollard, Virginia Community College System spokeswoman, told the Daily Progress. “That was after reviewing options, and reviewing the options in order to ensure that continued quality instruction and uninterrupted services to community college students was maintained.”
The changes will go into effect for the 2023-2024 academic year.
“It’s really to cover the mandatory cost increases which includes statewide adjustments for compensation and benefit,” Pollard said. “As we all know, we’re in these inflationary times, and this doesn’t even fully cover everything for inflationary times, but it was the best option to keep the cost, the tuition rate, low and to also at the same time try to cover the costs that are incurred right now with mandatory cost increases.”
The new rate is $2,379.15 for a 15 credit-hour semester or $158.61 per credit hour, according to the statement. Other mandatory fees vary at the community college level, as the increase only applies to tuition.
The board reviewed other options prior to finalizing their decision, according to Pollard.
“They considered no tuition increase, but the problem is we still have those mandatory compensation and benefits that had to occur and still needed to be able to pay for,” Pollard said. “The second option was to increase the tuition by 3%, and this action addressed a significant portion of the existing costs associated with that compensation increase that actually began July 1. And then the third option was to increase tuition by 4.3%.”
The Virginia Community College System serves roughly 250,000 students across 23 schools each year, according to the state.
One of those 23 schools is PVCC, which supports the board’s decision, according to Scott Jefferies, vice president of finance and administrative services at the college.
“We understand it, we support it, but we also need to make sure our first priority is taking care of our students and we’re going to, again, keep working with them to help them out whether it’s through scholarships, whether it’s through our foundation, or through financial aid,” Jefferies said.
Some students have already started paying tuition for the fall, according to Jefferies. Those students may have to pay the difference of the tuition increase.
“We’ve had students already pay tuition, but when we send communication out to all of our students, we have a little caveat in our messaging, it says, ‘The tuition rate is subject to change based off any approved state board action,’ and so there is that little caveat.”
Jeffries said PVCC will continue to communicate next steps to students who are in “that situation.”
“We will always work with all of our students to meet their financial needs, and so we’ll just continue to provide those services, whether it’s a 3% increase like this, if it’s in the future a 1% increase or whatever it might be,” he said.