BOV holds public hearing, discusses new tuition implemention

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After passing a six-year plan for tuition, the Board of Visitors held a public hearing on the subject. GEORGIA THOMS / THE FLAT HAT

In September 2019, the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors unanimously endorsed a new six-year plan, which introduced a modified tuition model beginning in fall 2020. In addition, the Board decided to hold a public hearing on tuition Tuesday, Oct. 22, where students could voice their concerns and learn more in detail about various aspects of the budget. 

Board of Visitors Rector John E. Littel, Secretary Sue H. Gerdelman, members Anne Leigh Kerr and Karen Kennedy Schultz, Chair of the Finance Committee James A. Hixon, Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Sam E. Jones and Vice President of Finance and Technology Amy Sebring were in attendance. 

Jones presented the overall uses of the budget and illustrated the process in setting tuition and fees for fiscal year 2021 to the Board. Furthermore, Jones emphasized that the meeting’s ultimate purpose was to receive public comment on the new tuition in relation to the modified six-year plan. 

“In September, the Board of Visitors made a six-year plan that sets the parameters for the tuition moving forward,” Jones said. “We continue to be an early decision school, so we provide the cost of tuition before the students have to make a decision so that they and their families know what the cost will be now and in the future.”

In March, Virginia’s General Assembly will meet and consider adjusting funding for the state’s public universities. State general funds are state tax dollars that support the College because it is a state-sponsored institution. However, these funds do not provide financial support for out-of-state students. 

While there is potential for the College to receive money from the state, external factors make state funding highly competitive. Last session, state funding in the form of Tuition Moderation funds allowed for no increase in tuition for in-state undergraduates that year. However, this fiscal year there will be an increase in tuition because the state, despite consistent revenues, is unable to provide the requisite funding necessary for the College to continue operating in its current fashion. 

“We are very early in the process,” Jones said. “Current students, in-state undergraduates, will have no tuition increase because they are under the William and Mary Promise and Tuition Guarantee. For incoming freshman and in-state transfer students right now in the six-year plan as submitted to the state there will be a zero to three percent increase.” 

“We are very early in the process,” Jones said. “Current students, in-state undergraduates, will have no tuition increase because they are under the William and Mary Promise and Tuition Guarantee. For incoming freshman and in-state transfer students right now in the six-year plan as submitted to the state there will be a zero to three percent increase.” 

This increase in tuition is to keep the College running properly while also providing quality education as a public institution.

“William and Mary is like a small city,” Jones said. “We are not only providing education, but food, transportation, utility plants, but counseling and health care are available as well. Auxiliary activities are generally fee driven like the residence life program, food service program, athletics and transportation as well as many other things. The state provides no support for that, so it is completely revenue driven.”

Tuition provides 44 percent of the College’s operating revenue, which in total is about $209.4 million. Additionally, academics account for over half of the school’s expenditures, $470.7 million divided into research, financial aid, auxiliary services and academics. Of that total expenditure, 56 percent is devoted to instruction, academic support, student services, institutional support and plant operations. 

The breakdown of each tuition dollar is as follows: 46 cents goes directly to instruction including faculty compensation; 18 cents for need-based financial aid; 13 cents for libraries, academic technology and deans; 11 cents for institutional support like finance and technology support; eight cents for the operation and maintenance of the institution; and finally, four cents for the registrar, career services, the admissions office and the financial aid office. 

Jones also discussed the importance of financial aid in tuition cost. The College provides $61.2 million in financial aid and is adamant about continuing this tradition of support. 

“Thirteen percent of our overall budget goes into student financial aid, and that has been an area of emphasis for the board for a long time. That is in terms of providing appropriate need-based aid for students but also it helps with the diversity of the student body as well and first-generation students in terms of making sure we provide adequate support.”   

When discussing changes for the tuition budget, the Board has a specific process that follows key questions such as the adequacy of current expenditures, possible opportunities for cost savings, appropriate faculty-student ratios, incremental funding for need-based financial aid goals and if there are any new program or services needed.  

“The bottom line we are asking is if William and Mary is cost competitive given the value and quality of the education students receive,” Jones said.

“The bottom line we are asking is if William and Mary is cost competitive given the value and quality of the education students receive,” Jones said.  

Patrick Salsburg ’21, one of two students who attended the College’s tuition hearing, attended out of personal curiosity.  

“I just wanted to know the breakdown of tuition and fees and how money is raised and how it is spent,” Salsburg said.  

The College’s Executive Director of Events Steve Tewksbury attended the event as a board member and felt the hearing was important to demonstrate how the budget is influenced by broader statewide events and how it can subsequently lead to change on campus.  

“I think a better understanding of the true workings of the budget are needed to make comments for there to be a real understanding of change,” Tewksbury said. “Coming to meetings like this, and paying more attention at board meetings would be helpful to better understand it. It is a rare opportunity to have members of the board who are willing and available to answer questions, particularly about the budget, on campus at one time.”