V(a.) for Vendetta

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January 25, 2011

2:30 AM

The last time Virginia delegate Tim Hugo graced our pages, way back in 2009, he was proposing to alter the percent of in-state students at Virginia public universities, from roughly 65 percent to 80 percent. The bill gained little traction during that attempt, ultimately stalling in committee. Now, it seems he is back for round two with a personal vendetta.

Hugo continues to make a passionate, and rather stark, case for more in-state students — in this case 75 percent enrollment. With rhetoric mentioning “kids who are flocking across the border” and concern that the College of William and Mary might become “the College of New Jersey, Williamsburg campus,” one wonders how far Hugo is from suggesting a border fence. Of course this analogy, alarmingly applicable as it may be, is not why we should dismiss Hugo’s proposition. We should dismiss it because it is a horrible idea for Virginia public universities.

The obvious concern, the same one many opponents voiced in response to Hugo’s previous initiative, is the effect this change would have on College funding. State support of the College in recent years has decreased drastically, currently wallowing around 14 percent. Due to that gradual de-funding, the tuition paid by out of state students, for better or for worse, represents a large and reliable portion of the College budget. No state representative can responsibly support any policy reducing that portion of the College’s budget, at least not while remaining unwilling or unable to use state funding to make up the difference.
This is to say that Hugo hasn’t proposed a way to fund this change. His idea? Simply charge out-of-state students more.

Increasing out-of-state tuition enough to cover this change — it would be roughly a 50 percent hike — would make the College cost-prohibitive to almost all non-residents. Aside from lowering the standard of admission for Virginia applicants — Hugo’s stated goal, and not one any school interested in a selective applicant pool should support — this change would likely see the majority of non-Virginians simply apply elsewhere.

Even disregarding the effect it would have on the College’s reputation, erecting further barriers against out-of-state students goes against the ideal of sponsoring diversity within the student body. Diversity of location is perhaps the most easily attained variety, but it’s far from superficial factor. Any college ideally attempts to create an environment of cosmopolitan discourse, however idealistic or naive that ambition may seem. Further localizing and diminishing the applicant pool of Virginia state universities runs directly counter to that fundamental goal.

For some, this may read like much ado about nothing. There is no sensible rationale for any delegate to support Hugo’s personal hostility against Virginia colleges’s out-of-state ratios. Only if representatives vote in favor of the narrow-minded concerns of their constituents over the long-term good of Virginia state universities could this bill ever hope to pass. Our present concern stems from the fact that, at least with regard to state funding, we have seen narrow-minded thinking succeed before.

Therefore, we passionately warn the College community against considering this bill an idle threat. Hugo’s proposal has only the remotest prospect of succeeding, but, with our budget already in shambles, we cannot afford to take even that chance. We urge everyone with a stake in the future of our College — be they students, alumni, faculty or administration — to take action in opposing Hugo’s proposition. With Road to Richmond only a week away, now is the perfect time for students to collectively voice their concerns Even without making the trek to Richmond, a simple phone call to your district’s representative can make you a part of that voice.

Stand up for diversity, for quality education and for competition: Tell them we want students to keep flocking.

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