Politics put colleges in a tight squeeze
March 1, 2011
The incoming freshman class will be slightly larger than its predecessors, primarily due to political pressure from Richmond. The Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Bob McDonnell would like to see a higher ratio of in-state students to out-of-state students. While the goal of ensuring that Virginia residents are able to attend state colleges may make a good sound bite, the implementation of such a goal proves highly problematic. Simply shifting the numbers is not a viable option for the College of William and Mary during these stressful economic times.
The College relies heavily on out-of-state students’s high tuition. Currently, 35 percent of the student body qualify as out-of-state students; however, that minority supports the majority of the College’s tuition based budget. Because of the need to maintain the financial resources that out-of-state students bring to the College, decreasing the number of out-of-state students is not an economically sound plan. This leaves only one solution: The College must increase the size of the student body in order to accept more in-state students.
However, even this plan comes with significant economic drawbacks. The problem with increasing student body size is that the facilities at the College are not currently capable of supporting a larger student body. Already, students are frustrated over lack of spots in courses, limited parking and insufficient housing. Recently, Residence Life announced that Jefferson Hall will be a freshman dorm starting in the 2011-2012 school year. To help soften this blow to upperclassmen, Brown Hall and a section of Taliaferro Hall will become upperclassman housing. This and the addition of Tribe Square will mean that the housing situation will not be any worse next year than it already is. But what happens the year after that? Once the Class of 2015 become sophomores, there will be an even greater need for increased upperclassman housing. While the College does have future plans to address this need, question remains: Will the College have enough funding to address this problem? Given the current economic situation of the state, I would argue that it is unlikely that the College will receive a large amount of funding to build new housing complexes and parking garages.
The risk is that more students will be bumped from the housing lottery and will need to seek off campus housing. Whether or not this issue will prove to be a significant problem is completely dependent on cooperation from the City of Williamsburg, and while relations between the school and city have improved greatly since the election of Scott Foster ’10, they are still far from good enough to allow the College to expand across the city. Furthermore, the College lacks current funding from the state to make these state demanded changes.
If the GA and McDonnell want to make selective Virginia state schools more open to in-state students, they should at least provide the College with the means to do so, rather than forcing such policies on the school without providing plausible solutions to problems said policies might create.