Tuition hikes: Out-of-state student woes

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March 21, 2011

11:12 PM

When I was deciding between colleges four years ago, one of the College of William and Mary’s most appealing aspects was its price. Although out-of-state tuition was still expensive, it was lower than that of many private schools of the same caliber. Four years later, the College no longer has that draw. For the 2007-2008 school year, tuition alone was $26,930. This year, tuition costs $33,704, marking an increase of 25 percent. During these tough economic times for the College, out-of-state students have had to foot the bill.

Virginians should be the primary benefactors of their great system of state-supported higher education, but out-of-state students are crucial to the College’s national reputation and should not be forgotten. Diversity has become a major tenant of the ranking and appeal of colleges, and a commitment to geographical diversity increases both the College’s status and the quality of our education. Spending 17 years of school solely with students exclusively from Virginia will not benefit Virginians. Unfortunately, Gov. Bob McDonnell disagrees. With his plan to increase the number of spots for in-state students in Virginia’s schools, McDonnell claims to have Virginians’ best interests at heart. However his efforts are sorely misguided. The College’s national reputation already suffers from its low economic resources, which places even more of the school’s financial burden on out-of-state students and makes the College neither more secure nor more competitive.

Virginia’s public colleges are renowned nationwide, and plans such as the Virginia Prepaid Education Program, which allows families to freeze tuition prices so they are not subject to inflation and increases such as those outlined above, are enviable resources for residents. Virginians deserve such benefits, and it is reasonable that out-of-state students pay more; however, the College’s practice of telling families one price and raising it drastically each year is unethical and unwarranted. In its efforts to increase its own financial resources, the College has turned a blind eye to the needs of its students and to the struggles of their families.

Perhaps the College should stop constructing new buildings and hosting fancy dinners for the Board of Visitors in order to avoid misleading its primary supporters. When you include room and board and other additional costs, the difference in cost is even more profound. During the 2006-2007 academic year, the cost of my sister’s senior year at James Madison University totaled at around $30,000. My last year at the College will total at around $44,000. In just four years, the cost of my schooling will have cost nearly 50 percent more than that of my sister, despite the fact that both of us attended state schools in Virginia.

The education I have received at the College has been nothing short of excellent, but the College has been deceitful in its treatment of out-of-state students over the last four years. We have never been directly notified of the increases, and it has been expected that the small out-of-state population bear the burden of the College’s poor financial planning. Many families would not have sent their children to the College had they known that tuition would be 25 percent more expensive by the time they graduate. If the College plans on continuing its practice of drastic cost increases each year, it should let prospective students know that the original price is meaningless.

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