Board to raise tuition again

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April 17, 2009

5:16 AM

For the 10th straight year, tuition rates at the College of William and Mary are on the rise.

Undergraduate tuition and fees at the College will increase by 5.6 percent for the 2009-2010 academic year. The raise, aimed to help recoup funds after the decline of state funding, was announced during Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Visitors’ Finance Committee.

Undergrads will see tuition increase by 4.9 percent for the next academic year. Fees for in-state students will increase by 6.2 percent and 8.8 percent for out-of-state students. As a result, undergraduate students will be paying 5.6 percent more, or $1,026 for in-state students and $2,110 for out-of-state students, to attend the College in the coming fall.

In addition to the increase, Vice President for Finance Sam Jones ’75 M.B.A. ’80 addressed many of the other financial issues that the college will have to overcome in the next two years. Because the college is facing a $10.5 million decrease in state support during the current academic year, Jones said the College is slowly facing a gap that could lead the school to fail to pay for all of its expenditures.

“We’re getting less and less state dependence in the long term. When you’re two recessions from now, there’s only going to be a little slice they can give us,” Jones said.

The Finance Committee said that the biggest challenge facing the College will be maintaining the quality of a state tuition program while also cutting back on costs in order to make up for the gap in state funds.

“You’re really going to have to land a plan to give you the tools to make very difficult priority choices against an environment that’s relatively predictable,” BOV Rector Michael Powell ’85 said. “It’s never ever going to be political power. [The General Assembly] has no reason to be cooperative with us on this point, we might as well accept that.”

According to the approved budget, similar increases will affect graduate programs, with higher relative increases for in-state students to close the gap between the in-state and out-of-state tuition rates.

The $3.8 million of federal stimulus aid that the College recently received as part of President Barack
Obama’s stimulus package was also a point of contention for some BOV members, who worry the aid will be an extra burden that the College will have to make up for in two years.

Although some BOV members expressed concern about the proposed changes. most of the body agreed that the 5.6 percent total increase was necessary in order to keep the College’s finances intact while still maintaining the institution’s quality.

“5.4 [percent] or 5.9 [percent]; is that significant?” BOV member Charles Banks said. “It’s not that we’re not short of money — we are.”

BOV member Jeffery Trammell ’73 agreed that next year’s tuition and fees, along with gradual increases in
the future, are crucial to keeping the College one of the “best kept secrets” of higher education.

“Wherever the high end is, I think that the College should be up there,” Trammell said. “There is a core, critical issue. And that is, we are underfunded at the College. We are not going to succeed on what we wrote out on our strategic plan if we continue to go by U.S. News as the best value in the country.”

BOV member Timothy Dunn ’83 also agreed with the changes but urged other BOV members to consider
carefully the impact of raising tuition.

“There is [also] the dialogue of a broader community of parents who are paying the bill who [do] not hav[e] the funds,” Dunn said.

At the end of the day, Trammell said it was quite simply a matter of the College not having the necessary funds to operate.

“We got this fundamental conflict between not having enough revenue to do what we have to do,” Trammell said. “And I think we all understand that, and I think we need to confront the reality of it — in that over time, we’ll have to increase tuition.”

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