University of Virginia students will have to wait to find out how much their tuition will cost next year as the university’s Board of Visitors on Friday postponed a decision until after Gov. Ralph Northam has signed the state’s next budget into law.
The board is debating raising tuition as much as 3.1%, keeping level or raising it somewhere in between. The 3.1% is based on the nationwide rise in the cost of providing a college education, plus 1%.
The vote was shelved by Board of Visitors at its Friday meeting as officials said they are unsure whether the legislature’s recently approved budget will be altered by Northam. Board members said it will take time to determine the budget’s impacts.
“We have decided to defer any discussion of fees, room and board at today’s meeting,” said Bob Blue, a member of the Board of Visitors and lead of the board’s finance committee. “As fiduciaries of the university, one of our most important roles is to do what’s right for the long term with respect to the university.”
Blue, who is the president and CEO of Dominion Energy, said the university already took steps to mitigate COVID’s financial impacts but how the state budget will affect the school is still unknown.
“Right now we don’t have a total picture of the Commonwealth’s budget situation. The budget passed by the state legislature a few days ago is complex. As a result, we want to give management more time to work on its implications for UVa,” Blue said.
Blue noted that Northam has until the end of March to sign the budget or propose amendments.
“It makes sense for us to take a little more time so that we have all the facts before we make a decision,” he said.
UVa staff agreed.
“We saw a significant difference between the governor’s proposed budget, House and Senate and then, ultimately, the final conference report that came out on [Feb. 27],” said J.J. Davis, UVa executive vice president and COO.
Davis said the state budget, as passed, currently calls for and funds a 5% salary increase for classified staff. The budget gives schools the leeway to raise salaries for faculty and other staff beginning July 1.
“The issue here for us is that compensation is typically a partially funded mandate with the university needing to provide significant resources, which is typically [through] tuition,” Davis said.
The Board of Visitors’ next meeting is scheduled for June, but the board could call a special meeting to determine tuition and fees before then.
Besides the possible tuition hike, the school is proposing a $114 increase in fees, including $75 to pay for expanding student health and wellness services and a new wellness facility. The remaining fee increase will pay for improvements to recreational facilities and Newcomb Hall.
Based on tuition, fees and other expenses listed by UVa for the 2020-2021 school year, an in-state undergraduate in the arts and sciences school would see a tuition and fee increase of about $554 a year. That would bring total tuition and fees to about $17,860.
Including room and board, food, books and personal expenses as estimated by the university for the 2020-20221 school year, an increase would push costs for students and families to about $34,600 a year.
A 3.1% hike in out of state tuition would be an estimated increase of $1,489, bringing tuition and fees charged nonresidents to about $53,417. With current existing cost of books and room and board, nonresident students would pay about $70,200 a year.
Different schools within the university charge different tuition rates and graduate schools often charge more.
The current fiscal year saw pandemic-limited incomes for the school and increases in the cost of providing classes and creating safe facilities. Athletics and other activities that earned the school money also saw steep cuts.
At a Feb. 17 special hearing on the tuition proposal, about two dozen students addressed the UVa board in the virtual meeting asking that tuition remain the same for next year. Students noted a survey that showed between 58% and 64% of students, depending on their ethnicity, believe an increase would be detrimental to their studies.
They also noted that last spring several schools, including William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech voted to hold 2020-2021 tuition at the 2019-2020 fiscal year rate, citing the pandemic’s impacts on the economy.
Virginia State University has indicated it will not raise tuition for 2021-2022.
UVa officials have noted that state funding cuts over the years has not been made up by tuition increases. The university estimates that it costs $3,648 per student more to run the school than tuition and state funds cover. That money is covered through a variety of other funding sources, including donors and investment earnings.
Administrators said about 42 cents of every dollar raised in tuition or received from state funds pays for faculty salaries. They estimated that 35 cents of each dollar goes for academic support services, including libraries, student advising and technology.
About 8 cents of the tuition buck go to support graduate teaching assistants; a nickel goes to facilities and utilities; another nickel goes to administration; 4 cents goes to student support including the Dean of Students office; and 1 cent goes to public outreach.