“Gold with feet”

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September 13, 2012

11:38 PM

The College of William and Mary’s current financial strains dominated conversation at the campus forum Tuesday, Sept. 11. College President Taylor Reveley argued against the state-enforced cap on the number of out-of-state students who are permitted to attend the College. We understand Reveley’s concern that the commonwealth is failing to provide adequate funding to its schools and slowly draining state universities’ funds; however, we disagree with Reveley’s argument that in-state and out-of-state students should both pay fair market value. This plan of action comes very close to a path of privatization for the College — a path that, frankly, is unrealistic. Reveley’s comment that out-of-state students are “bags of gold with feet” is appalling because it frames the College’s job as generating a profit rather than educating students, a sentiment that is out of touch with the beliefs of the campus. College leaders must help the College stay afloat by fighting for improved state funding and investigating innovative ways to make the school more efficient.

The Creative Adaptation Fund demonstrates the type of innovation we hope the College utilizes in the future. This fund aims to find ways to improve the school’s efficiency without damaging the quality of education it provides. It does this by channeling the creative ingenuity of the faculty at the College. We are particularly optimistic about the Creative Adaptation Fund because the College’s faculty members are in-tune with the educational needs of the students.

We are not criticizing Reveley’s attempts to fight for an increase in higher education funding from the state. We hope he continues to campaign for more state funding. Virginia’s public universities are some of the state’s greatest assets, and often students stay in Virginia after graduation to live and work. The state must be willing to support its public universities in order to continue reaping the benefits of educated students.

We disagree with Reveley’s approach in that we do not believe that moving toward privatization is the solution. We feel that we should focus on increased state support of the College and more efficient use of funding. These solutions to the College’s current budget shortfalls are aimed at focusing on the quality of education provided to the students who attend the College, not the amount of money these students can bring to it.

President Reveley’s position is to net funding for the school, and we support his efforts to improve the College’s depressed financial situation. Nonetheless, his emphasis on money over educating students in Tuesday’s forum was distasteful. Money is a necessity, but begging state legislatures to allow for a more privatized path for the College is not the solution. We hope that Reveley and other College leaders will look toward innovative solutions for funding in the future.

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. Elizabeth Keppel
    September 14, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Did the writer of this article even attend the forum? President Reveley explicitly stated when asked that privatization was completely out of the question--I believe the phrase "moot point" was used. Charging market value for tuition is nothing like privatization...plenty of public goods still operate under market value. The state owns all of the real estate and controls many of the College's liquid assets, as well. Furthermore, increased state support isn't going to happen. This is a nationwide trend which is not unique to the College or Virginia. In the 1980s, Virginia covered about 40% of the school's operating budget. That number has gradually dwindled to 13% in FY13--the legislature has no intention of increasing this number. Finally, the College is already using its funds incredibly efficiently. U.S. News & World Report ranks the College 33rd in quality despite ranking 97th in financial resources, by far the widest gap of any national university. Sure, there are opportunities to tighten the belt. But these modifications alone will not allow the school to maintain and increase its standard of greatness. I agree that this is a dialogue which should be ongoing. Perhaps charging market value isn't the best way to go. But hasty generalizations and sloppy, unrealistic ideas (like those in this article) will not get us any closer to an answer. Shoddy reporting and half-assed, oversimplified arguments, Flat Hat Editorial Board.

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