December 1, 2011
It is impossible to avoid hearing about the College of William and Mary’s current financial struggles. The College needs money that quite simply isn’t there right now. As state funding for the school drops, the cost of tuition continues to increase, and every year there is an attempt to raise tuition either for out-of-state students or in-state students by some delegate in the Virginia General Assembly.
In a recent interview with “Virginia Business Magazine,” College President Taylor Reveley described his belief that tuition needs to be based on market price, which means increasing the amount in-state students pay. Reveley also said in the interview that some of the funding generated from the increase would go toward financial aid so as to not deter students from applying. According to Reveley, out-of-state student tuition has reached a point where it cannot be increased; in-state tuition has not.
After the interview, a writer for the Washington Post, and the parent of a student at the University of Virginia with more than a little bias, worried that Reveley’s plan will lead to privatization and contemplated other courses of action. In an editorial response, the rector of the Board of Visitors at the College, Jeff Trammell, supported Reveley’s views while ensuring that the College had no intention to privatize.
Reveley’s interview, in conjunction with Trammell’s response, indicates a very different tone in the discussion of raising tuition and where the College stands financially. Reveley knows the comments may be unpopular with some people — like delegates from Northern Virginia — yet he seems confident in talking about this possibly polarizing plan. In speaking to a business journal, Reveley went straight to the people who would understand his position rather than begging the General Assembly for funding. Yes, this move is bold. Yes, the College is taking its finances into its own hands because it is not receiving enough state support. This move may even be a bluff to raise awareness that if the state won’t give the College more money, the College will look elsewhere.
We obviously need the money. By now everyone should understand that the state has all but stopped funding the College’s operating costs. The College is a prestigious school, but without the cash to hire professors, conduct research projects, or incentivize intelligent students to apply, our reputation is in jeopardy. Other state schools have other funding options and from that funding they can afford better facilities and support. Other state schools don’t have buildings that are sinking into the ground or that have been closed for three years.
In the entire country, Virginia ranked 38th in state and local appropriations for students — as compared to North Carolina and Maryland which were ranked 10th and 11th, respectively. In case you’re getting a little mentally overwhelmed at the end of finals, that means only 11 other states have worse funding allocation per students.
While Reveley’s comments may seem a little hard-hearted, his plan is one that will allow the College to effectively finance itself. The College needs to maintain its reputation — even if that means students will have to shell out a little more in return for a valuable education.