University of Virginia President Jim Ryan (center) listens during a Board of Visitors meeting at the Rotunda on March 1, 2019.

The University of Virginia is the latest public university to accept the General Assembly’s budget deal to freeze some in-state tuition increases.

Tuition for most incoming and returning in-state students will remain the same during the 2019-20 school year. UVa will receive a $5.52 million increase in its base appropriations to offset the freeze.

“Overall, I think the positives outweigh the negatives,” said President Jim Ryan on Friday.

The unanimous vote to accept the state deal, taken during a Friday meeting of the Board of Visitor’s executive committee, rolls back some UVa and College at Wise tuition increases already passed in December.

“It is clear that the legislature, the governor and the institutions all feel this is a good time to take a breather from tuition increases,” said Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

According to SCHEV’s annual tuition and fees report, during the 2018-19 school year, Virginia undergraduates pay an average of 55% of the cost for their education, as opposed to a goal of 33%. This budget deal may not change that ratio much, Blake said, but “it’s not going any further, and we are seeing a commitment by institutions and the state to keep working on the issue.”

This year’s tuition freeze will save some in-state students roughly $400 in tuition money. According to the Office of Student Financial Services, the total yearly costs to attend the College of Arts and Sciences, which enrolls the majority of UVa’s undergraduates, now will be:

» In-state: $13,682 in tuition, $2,958 in fees, $16,368 in room, board and other expenses, for a total cost of attendance of $33,008.

» Out-of-state: $46,330 in tuition, $3,640 in fees, $16,368 in room, board and other expenses, for a total cost of attendance starting at $66,338.

Before the rollback, UVa had planned and passed a 2.9% increase to UVa’s base in-state tuition rate.

Rusty Conner, rector of the university, said the board views tuition increases as a final resort to balance the budget.

“So, when the state allocates sufficient funds, it’s very hard to turn that down and then continue to trumpet the fact that we’re doing all we can to ameliorate the effects of a tuition increase,” Conner said.

In December, the board passed a new differential tuition rate for Arts and Sciences upperclassmen. Students who start at UVa this fall will, when they are third-years in the fall of 2021, begin paying an additional $2,700 per year in tuition. The differential rate will fund faculty recruitment and retention, support services and new programs.

A 3.5% increase to base out-of-state tuition rates will remain in effect, widening the gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs. Small increases to fees and housing costs and planned step increases to tuition at the Schools of Commerce and Batten also remain in effect.

Ryan said the deal makes sense for UVa’s bottom line in the short term.

“The funding available from the state will offset any loss we would have from forgoing the tuition increase, so as a straightforward math problem, this is a good deal for us,” Ryan said.

Ryan added that the deal is a sign from the General Assembly of its recognition that affordable tuition depends on state funding. In the last several decades, Ryan said, increases UVa has made to in-state tuition levels have not been enough, overall, to offset a decline in state funding.

However, UVa administrators cautioned, the freeze is likely to be for one year only.

J.J. Davis, UVa’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said legislators have said the additional $5.52 million will form part of UVa’s base appropriation and could continue to be allocated in future budget cycles, but that state officials would not make a guarantee.

Lower tuition costs may mean a proportional drop in students’ financial aid packages but should not lead to substantial out-of-pocket changes for students since the university will still cover 100% of students’ demonstrated need.

For a full breakdown of updated 2019-20 costs by school, visit: sfs.virginia.edu/cost/19-20.

The board’s next full meeting is scheduled for June.

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Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, rserven@dailyprogress.com or @RuthServen on Twitter.

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