By nature of our occupation, students at the College of William and Mary have become accustomed to several unpleasant recurring events: exams, all-nighters and tripping over the occasional dislodged brick in the sidewalk. Most recently, however, students at the College have become used to another, more financially burdensome recurring event, repeated again Friday as the Board of Visitors announced yet another tuition increase. This means a 5.5 percent increase for in-state students to $22,024 and a 5.7 percent increase for out-of-state students to $44,854. While we certainly join the larger chorus of College students bemoaning the recent increase, we also understand the increases are necessary to keep the College competitive in the current economic climate.
Tuition is increasing at an alarming rate, but the College’s funding is decreasing even faster. This year marks the expiration of $7 million dollars of federal stimulus money which helped alleviate the financial burden felt by decreases in state funds. While the state’s funding did not decrease this year, the loss of the federal money has hurt the College again. Overall, state support has dropped over 30 percent in the last 40 years — in 1980 the Commonwealth provided 42.8 percent of the College’s operating budget, but will only cover 12.8 percent in 2012. One of the College’s unique attractions is its reputation as a “Public Ivy” and its great educational value. If state and federal support continues to slip, and if tuition continues its steady climb, both of these distinctions will soon become non-existent, irreversibly harming the College’s standing among elite universities.
Although we implore the state to find ways to increase its support for the College, we understand that money is tight and that such protests are hard to make when the entire state is struggling.
However, something must be done in the short term to ensure the College can continue to be one of the best academic communities in the nation, and the BOV determined that an increase in tuition was the only way to ensure the stability of the College. We are certainly not cheering for tuition increases, but our greatest concern is that if the College does not raise tuition, it will not be able to afford the type of professors who have molded the College into a prominent university. According to the 2011 U.S. News and World Report rankings, the College was ranked as having the No. 5 best undergraduate teaching. It would be debilitating to see the College lose its standing among the academic elites due to a lack of funds — a fear that has recently become a very real possibility. Other institutions of higher learning are paying their professors more because they have more funding with which to do so. Since we don’t have necessary state funding, we must find ways to continue attracting professors.
In light of the current economic situation, we applaud the College for taking steps toward greater financial responsibility. Recently, proposals were made to the BOV which aimed to promote more efficiency in college operations. Seventeen suggestions were made at the meeting, and eight were selected for immediate implementation. There are 11 more suggestions to be implemented, and we encourage President Reveley to use more of these plans in order to lower costs. We also hope the College will continue to investigate more ways to trim the budget, which will hopefully ensure that future tuition increases are unnecessary.