Va. General Assembly tables bills to decrease out-of-staters

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February 12, 2010

2:39 AM

Four bills to limit out-of-state enrollment at state schools were tabled Monday by a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee, delaying the potential legislature from progressing for at least another year.

The bills were tabled by a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which recommended that the issue be studied over the coming year by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s advisory commission on higher education.

One bill in particular, introduced by Del. Timothy Hugo ’86 (R-Fairfax), would have required state universities to enroll at least 75 percent of their students from in-state schools. The proposed bill would have affected the College of William and Mary, which currently enrolls 63 percent in-state students, the University of Virginia, at 62 percent, Virginia Tech, 70 percent, and James Madison University, 71 percent.

Hugo, who has previously referred to the College as “the University of New Jersey, Williamsburg campus,” and U.Va. as “the University of New York, Charlottesville campus,” has addressed the issue numerous times on the House floor this year, arguing that qualified in-state students are being denied because out-of-state students are “flocking in” due to relatively low tuition rates of Va. state universities.

For the College, the implications of such a bill would be serious. College spokesman Brian Whitson noted that increasing the in-state student ratio to 75 percent would result in a reduction of about $9 million in revenues to the College’s operating budget.

Hugo’s bill would have required that this loss of revenue be made up by increasing out-of-state tuition. Whitson said, however, that such a measure would be extremely unlikely.

“William and Mary does not have much more flexibility in terms of increasing the proportion of our tuition costs paid by out-of-state students,” he said.

Currently, out-of-state students provide nearly 70 percent of all tuition paid by students, and each out-of-state undergraduate pays approximately $20,000 more in tuition than Va. residents.

“The state does not provide adequate funding per student, so this policy would be a real hit to the budget,” College Provost Michael Halleran said. “Quality education would diminish because of that.”

Del. Jimmie Massie (R-Richmond) also opposed the bill, despite its personal appeal.

“As a parent of a high school senior — daddy’s only daughter — who is applying to three out of the four schools [affected by the bill] I am very sensitive to this,” he said.

Massie said that if an in-state student applies to all four of the state schools in question, they have a 96 percent chance of being accepted into at least one of them.

“Part of a full spectrum of higher education opportunities for college seniors includes schools with healthy percentages of national and international students,” he said.

College officials agreed that limiting the number of out-of-state and international students admitted to the College would have implications for its quality and diversity.

“We think our out-of-state students add a great deal to this campus and to the Commonwealth beyond just the obvious financial implications, though those are also significant,” Whitson said. “Having a talented and diverse student body — and having students from across the country and from the rest of the world — is one of the reasons so many young people want to attend William and Mary.”

Halleran said that the incoming class would not be as strong academically if the College enrolled 75 percent Virginia residents.

“The truth is, William and Mary is a very competitive institution, with very rigorous standards,” Halleran said. “There will always be a lot of good students who will not get in. Would more Virginia students get in? Obviously. But there would still be quality students that would not get in.”

Whitson said that admitting non-Virginian residents does more than increasing diversity and quality of the College.

“Out-of-state students are important contributors to both the College of William and Mary and the economic future of the Commonwealth,” he said. “Many out-of-state students come to school in Virginia and decide to stay here for life.”

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