UVa board approves tuition increase - The Daily Progress: News

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UVa board approves tuition increase

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Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 4:15 pm | Updated: 10:52 am, Thu Apr 24, 2014.

ABINGDON — University of Virginia students this fall will face another cost increase to attend the school.

The Board of Visitors on Wednesday approved tuition increases of $468 — or 4.7 percent — for in-state students. Out-of-state students will see tuition increase by $2,268, or 6.2 percent.

Combined with general fee increases approved in February, the total cost of attendance for in-state students will go up at least $540, or 4.3 percent. Out-of-state students will pay at least $2,340, or 5.9 percent, more.

Those numbers don’t include housing and dining increases, which vary by plan. In February, the board approved average increases of $204 in housing and $180 in dining.

The total cost for state residents in their first year at UVa will increase $949 to $27,417, including tuition and fees, room and board and estimated expenses for books and travel, the school said.

Board members Helen E. Dragas, Edward D. Miller and Marvin W. Gilliam voted against the measure.

Patrick D. Hogan, the university’s vice president and chief operating officer, pitched the plan on behalf of the administration at the board meeting, held in conjunction with the inauguration of UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna Price Henry.

Hogan said the increase is driven by a variety of factors.

First, like all other public agencies, UVa will have to pay a larger share into the Virginia Retirement System — about $5 million annually. The university also expects to hire 80 new faculty members, he said. Half the cost will be offset by retiring members, while the remaining $6 million remains unfunded.

“One thing that’s just flying right in our face right now [is that] we cannot look beyond … the cost of replacing this faculty,” Hogan said.

The university also is starting to implement its five-year strategic plan, which includes attracting new faculty members with startup money for research.

Making faculty salaries more competitive is a goal for UVa, ranked 34th among major universities in faculty pay, according to the American Association of University Professors. Administrators think the ranking will hurt the university’s ability to compete against other top schools for faculty.

Hunter E. Craig, speaking in support of the measure, said retaining and recruiting the best professors is too important to overlook.

“One of the key ingredients of the secret sauce of the college — to me it is the key ingredient — is excellent faculty,” Craig said. “We need to give [UVa Provost] John Simon the monetary tools to retain and recruit excellence in faculty.”

Several board members, including Gilliam, said they’re concerned about the lack of a long-term financial plan for the university. Vice Rector William H. Goodwin said he’d support the increase, but wants to look harder at savings down the road.

“Given the circumstances, we have an awful lot of needs that came together during this budget,” said Goodwin, who called into the meeting. “[But] I would like to think next year we will find some solutions to some of the cost drivers pushing us toward these increases.”

Gilliam said he still is concerned about the cost of the strategic plan. In November, he voted against a measure giving the administration the green light to begin pursuing the blueprint, saying he wanted a solid cost estimate before approving anything.

He reiterated that stance Wednesday.

“I don’t know where the money is going and I think we need to work harder to keep tuition down,” Gilliam said after the meeting. He added that the administration is asking the board to for money in installments before giving an overall estimate.

“That’s a cart-before-the-horse situation,” he said.

The administration has been hesitant to release numbers, saying there are too many unknowns early in the process. The Daily Progress obtained emails in December showing early cost estimates of $564 million over five years.

The administration backed away from that figure at February’s meeting, saying it was a rough estimate.

Dragas and Miller said they were concerned about higher education costs. Miller pointed out that student loan debt surpassed $1 trillion last year. As one of the country’s leading institutions, he said, UVa should set an example by stopping or at least slowing the increase in cost of attendance.

“When is enough enough?” said Miller, who also called into the meeting. “I think we need to embark on a real cost-cutting program with the aim of keeping tuition at inflation level only.”

Dragas said affordability should be the university’s first priority. The board already has scaled back grants for students under AccessUVa, the university’s financial aid program, due to rising costs. Dragas said it’s only going to get worse as tuition increases.

“AccessUVa is a symptom of a larger problem, which is the rising cost of higher education,” she said.

With the passage of this tuition increase, the price tag for Virginia students for the entire academic year is about $13,000 and about $42,000 for out-of-state students.

Last year, UVa’s out-of-state tuition was second-highest among public universities nationwide, according to U.S. News & World Report.

 “I feel that as long as we as a board continue to approve tuition increases year after year without considering the whole picture … we’re going to continue to, for lack of a better word, kick the can down the road,” Dragas said.

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