Board of Visitors approves six-year plan for tuition

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BOV finalizes in-state tuition growth rates, outlines plans for improved computer science program, new faculty Industy-Partner Fellows Program. COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

In one of its four meetings during the 2019-20 academic year, the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors endorsed a comprehensive six-year tuition model Friday, Sept. 27. The tuition model, which was unanimously approved by the board’s 17 members, aims to reduce tuition growth rates and ease financial burdens incurred by Virginia families throughout the college planning process. The plan also requests state assistance in improving the College’s data science programexpanding student internship opportunities and developing a pilot partnership between industry leaders and professors. 

In a statement released Friday, the College’s Chief Communications Officer Brian Whitson noted that the board passed the tuition model in advance of the upcoming Oct. 1 deadline set by the Virginia state government, which requires every public higher education institution to submit a six-year plan detailing tuition scales and enrollment growth predictions. The plan strives to embody aspects of the College’s ongoing William & Mary Promise campaign, including maximizing affordability while offering consistency and predictability in tuition rates. 

The plan stipulates several tuition growth thresholds for in-state students. For future in-state attendees, the College pledged to limit tuition growth by no more than three percent each academic year to provide more consistent tuition rates for Virginian residents studying at the College. This plan contrasts with the College’s current policy of resetting tuition annually for each incoming class, and then mandating that tuition rate for students in that class throughout their time in Williamsburg. Whitson noted that this policy has historically resulted in tuition growth rates above three percent, which has resulted in more volatility for lower and middle-income families. 

College President Katherine Rowe remarked that the six-year plan accomplished two goals: assuring affordability for Virginian families and improving the College’s ability to educate the next generation of Virginian workers. 

“This next iteration of the William & Mary Promise allows the university to preserve in-state access and ensure affordability for low- and middle-income students, while providing a predictable tuition cost guarantee for all in-state students,” Rowe said in the Press Release. “It also allows the university to be a partner in enabling the Commonwealth to attract and retain the talent needed to grow Virginia’s economy.” 

“This next iteration of the William & Mary Promise allows the university to preserve in-state access and ensure affordability for low- and middle-income students, while providing a predictable tuition cost guarantee for all in-state students,” Rowe said in the Press Release. “It also allows the university to be a partner in enabling the Commonwealth to attract and retain the talent needed to grow Virginia’s economy.” 

Whitson noted that the College has increased its financial aid allotments in the past six years, and that the new tuition growth rate policy would complement existing efforts to bolster in-state students’ college-related expenses. 

“Since 2013, William & Mary has increased undergraduate financial aid by 132 percent and has reduced the “net price” for low- and middle-income Virginians with need,” Whitson said in a written statement. 

“Since 2013, William & Mary has increased undergraduate financial aid by 132 percent and has reduced the “net price” for low- and middle-income Virginians with need,” Whitson said in a written statement. 

Whitson went on to state that the College is already among the most affordable options for Virginians of disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, and referenced data from the U.S. Department of Education in emphasizing that the College is the least expensive public university in Virginia for in-state families earning less than $110,000 annually.  

Furthermore, Whitson noted that $44.3 million of the College’s $53.6 million financial aid budget is devoted to undergraduate students, roughly 83 percent of the College’s aid endowment. According to Whitson, the board’s approval of the three percent cap on tuition growth will complement these ongoing efforts to improve accessibility and affordability. 

In addition to tuition alterations, the six-year plan lists several action items designed to expand the College’s academic and professional opportunities. Among the board’s proposals are requests for additional state funding in increasing course offerings in the data science major, which is part of a broader initiative to maximize students’ computational and quantitative skills before they enter the workforce.  

These efforts follow the board’s endorsement of a plan announced by the College administration earlier this year, which seeks to grow undergraduate enrollment in the computer science department from 70 graduating students to at least 160 each year, as well as to create a master’s degree in computer science. 

Despite similar goals, the plan’s requests are distinct from the College’s current efforts to join a ‘Tech Talent Pipeline’ linking students at Virginia’s public universities to technological industries post-graduation. According to Sam Jones, senior vice president for finance and administration, the Virginia state government requested that universities submitting six-year plans exclude any proposals explicitly linked to the Tech Talent Pipeline, so that the two processes can be evaluated separately. 

Pursuant to this state requirement, the College incorporated more unique, institution-specific initiatives into its official six-year memorandum, including requests for support in establishing a Faculty Industry-Partner Fellows program. According to Whitson, the pilot program would tie in College faculty with partners at industries throughout Virginia, with a goal to add five faculty members to the program before eventually expanding it to 10 members. 

College Provost Peggy Agouris stated that the pilot program would fit in well with the College’s desire to forge a symbiotic relationship between academics in Williamsburg and professionals throughout the rest of the state, as drawing closer links between those groups would ultimately benefit students. 

“We hope this pilot program serves as a model for how higher education, government and business can work together in new ways,” Agouris said in a written statement.

“We hope this pilot program serves as a model for how higher education, government and business can work together in new ways,” Agouris said in a written statement. “Industry partners will provide faculty real-world experiences they can bring back to their students. Business partners will benefit from having in-house faculty expertise in areas of strategic importance.” 

Whitson noted that the board will establish next year’s tuition rates at the upcoming meeting in November using the tuition rules determined by the new six-year plan. Other expenses, including institutional fees, room and board and out-of-state tuition, will be determined next April.