College addresses state funding cuts

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February 17, 2012

1:47 AM

Tuition has increased by 48.8 percent over the past six years at the College of William and Mary according to a report released in January by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. This percentage is the second highest increase among public institutions in Virginia.

ACTA analyzed higher education institutions in Virginia in terms of cost and quality. Thirty-nine public and private universities were included in the study, including all 15 of the state’s public institutions.

State financial support for the College has decreased by 30 percent since 1980, and currently makes up less than 13 percent of the school’s budget. College President Taylor Reveley outlined three main steps the College has taken to address cuts in state funding: an attempt to become more cost effective in how the university operates, a push on philanthropic capacity, and an increase in tuition.

“When you have an undergraduate program of our caliber and you have such a good student-faculty ratio, it is going to cost more,” Reveley said. “We are dealing with William and Mary’s financial need in three ways simultaneously, and each of them has to succeed.”

While still trying to maintain the quality of education and to bring in more tuition, one option would be to increase the size of the student body. This would also result in an increased student-faculty ratio. Currently, the College’s student-faculty ratio is the lowest in the state at 12:1, compared next to the University of Virginia’s 16:1.

“If you are a people-dependent organization, your costs are going to go up every year unless you get rid of people or unless you are a school with more tuition-paying students and less faculty,” Reveley said. “Maintaining William and Mary’s academic excellence means that our students — the people benefiting from a William and Mary education — need to contribute more toward what it costs to provide this education.”

Out-of-state students pay approximately $23,000 more in tuition each year than do in-state students.

“We do need more tuition, and we particularly need more tuition from in-state students,” Reveley said.

Over the past 10 years, the College has increased the size of the student body by 9.7 percent, while other institutions in the state have increased as much as 70 percent since 2000. To avoid increasing the size of student body, the College has turned to cutting corners in the budget.

“What we have done historically — over the last three years — we have reduced expenditures by $9.1 million,” Vice President for Finance Sam Jones said. “Because the state reduces our money so quickly and because our money is so tied up in people, we end up doing some of it with cuts and some of it with tuition.”

Jones noted that while other public universities may not have increased tuition at such a high percentage, circumstances for the College are different. The College is made up of approximately 65 percent in-state students and 35 percent out-of-state students. In the past three years, the College has also opened three major facilities: the Integrated Science Center, the School of Education and Alan B. Miller Hall.

“We have more out-of-state students than other public institutions. The state provides no money for out-of-state students,” Jones said. “We have also opened three main facilities. The state gave us no operating money for those facilities.”

The report also noted that the College has increased administrative spending proportionally more than instructional spending between fiscal years 2002-2003 and 2008-2009, with a 42 percent change in spending on instruction and a 60.8 percent change in spending on administration.

“During the years in question, William and Mary increased spending on instruction by 33.5 million while increasing spending on administration by far less — 7.6 million,” Reveley said. “The dollars in this instance are much more telling than the percentages.”

That said, the College continues to maintain an economical budget for the quality of education produced. U.S. News and World Report ranked the College No. 33 in overall quality and No. 97 in financial resources.

“On an apples-to-apples basis, the College has the fourth lowest number of executive, administrative, and managerial staff among the 25 universities in our peer group,” Reveley said. “We are not spending money wisely or unproductively on our academic program or on our administrative structure.”

ACTA also reported that the College has the second-highest freshman retention rate in the state among public institutions at 95 percent, lagging behind U.Va. by only 1 percent. Similarly, the College’s graduation rates were the second-highest in the state behind U.Va.

“From the input side, it is very reaffirming to see this because we know that we are bringing in some outstanding students and clearly that means that they are exceptionally prepared,” Senior Associate Dean of Admission Tim Wolfe said. “The quality of the students entering into the college is fantastic.”

Wolfe and Reveley both look highly on the school’s high retention and graduation rates, but Reveley stated that particular improvements could still be made.

“I would like to see top 10 in the country on graduation rates, but we are not just quite there,” Reveley said. “Again, it is a function of not having enough staff. I think if we had enough staff we could do a better job of finding the really tiny segment of undergraduates that are struggling.”

Reveley relates the College’s high graduation rankings to the school itself.

“The answer is the people,” Reveley said. “We really do have an undergraduate program that is exceptionally well glued together and we have a support apparatus that is exceptionally well glued together, so you put it all together and you would expect to get really great results.”

The report’s evaluation of school core courses

The Higher Education Report  compares cost and quality issues at 39 of Virginia public and private four-year colleges and universities.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni created this report.

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Ellie Kaufman

Senior staff writer Ellie Kaufman '13 is an English major from Herndon, Va. She was previously Chief Staff Writer, Variety Editor and Associate Variety Editor.