A proposed tuition hike of up to 4.9% met with resounding silence Thursday as no one showed up at a meeting set up by University of Virginia officials to get public input on the proposal.
The UVa Board of Visitors scheduled and publicized the hearing early last month, and finance officials took the proposal to various groups on Grounds in the past 30 days.
The board is slated to vote Dec. 10 on raising tuition between somewhere between 3.5% and 4.9% for the 2022-2023 school year and another 3.5% to 4.9% for the following 2023-2024 school year.
Besides the tuition hike, other fees not directly related to education and general operations are proposed to increase between 2.5% and 5% for 2022-2023 and again in 2023-2024.
On Thursday, UVa officials reviewed the proposals for the board and the public prior to opening up the meeting for comment. The meeting was held at the Ern Commons Building near student residences on McCormick Road.
“My colleagues and I are here to listen. We want your feedback,” said UVa Rector Whittington W. Clement. “We are not here to get into a debate. You’ve heard from the experts.”
When the meeting opened for commentary, no one had signed up to address the tuition proposal, either in person or online. Neither did anyone speak to the tuition proposal for UVa Wise, which joined in the public forum.
Clement said he hoped anyone who had watched the presentation online would email the Board of Visitors or finance officials with any questions or comments they may have.
“I hope the presentations have been helpful or anyone who has been livestreaming,” he said. “We welcome any follow up questions or comments you might have.”
The turnout is vastly different than the tuition information meeting held in February, 2021 for the current school year. More than two dozen students signed up for the virtual meeting and spoke of pandemic-induced hardships, asking the board to freeze tuition for the year.
Students also noted a survey that showed as many as 64% of students believed an increase would harm their studies
The board had considered a 3.1% rise in tuition and fees for 2021-2022 but agreed to freeze the rates after receiving input at the public comment meeting.
The board approved a 3.6% tuition increase for 2020-2021 and had considered a tuition increase for the 2019-20 school year, but held the line after more students addressed financial strain and more state funding become available.
Board members and university officials declined to say what may have led to the nonexistent turnout at Thursday’s meeting, but some speculated that increasing costs throughout society, inflation and even the rising cost of gasoline made the tuition proposal make sense.
“We have been extremely modest in our tuition increases in the last few years,” said J.J. Davis, UVa’s chief operating officer. “The tuition increase, we believe, is needed to allow us to sustain the salary and compensation increases we did last year and to continue to make progress in the board’s commitment to faculty salaries.”
The tuition and fees will also help offset price hikes in utilities, income lost during the pandemic and not made up by tuition this school year.
The tuition figures are based on national cost increases in providing a college education, plus 1%. That’s the normal standard the board sets for determining tuition each school year.
The range of tuition is designed to give the board flexibility to offset increases in the cost of education or decreases in anticipated state revenues compared to the assumptions made at the time the tuition rates were recommended.
Davis said the board may adjust the tuition rates later in the year should more money become available from the state or economic conditions change.
“This is a range and you could choose to come back in and make adjustments,” she said.
Tuition varies depending on what educational program and what schools a student attends. For the College of Arts and Sciences and many others, students from Virginia pay $14,188 a year, and out-of-state students pay $48,036. Including fees, in-state students pay $17,418, and others pay $51,948.
UVa officials estimate the total cost of attending the university in 2021-22, including room and board and other expenses, to be about $34,560 for Virginia undergraduate students and around $70,000 for out-of-state students.