College raises tuition following public hearing, creates Marine Science major


Wednesday, April 24 to Friday, April 26, the board of visitors of the College of William and Mary convened for their last meeting of the academic year to raise tuition fees, create a marine science major, approve the next operating budget and discuss other matters pertinent to the College.

Tuition Increases

At the full board meeting Friday, the board voted 15-1 to raise the College’s in-state tuition by 2.5% and out-of-state tuition by 3.3% for fiscal year 2025 and 2026. Thomas Norment J.D. ’73 was not present at the meeting.

The discussion followed a public hearing on the tuition increase Thursday, which was mandated by the Virginia Code. Two Williamsburg residents and two students spoke.

Williamsburg residents Ruth Kaiser and Sabrina Fairbanks shared their thoughts on the tuition increases, saying the College did not supplement plans to use the increased fees for more housing. Kaiser added that many at the College desire to have a residential college experience. 

Fairbanks also said while a large portion of tuition goes to supporting student experience, not increasing housing is the opposite of such an action. 

However, the College’s 10-year comprehensive housing and dining facilities project aims to add more on-campus housing, with the first new student housing slated to open in fall 2025.

Additionally, the first phase of the plan will deliver new housing for 935 students on the west campus, as well as housing for 269 students in a new facility adjacent to Lemon and Hardy halls along Jamestown Road.

Camille Villa ’25, a transfer student, shared with the board her experience being an out-of-state student and emphasized the importance of scholarships.

“I was [surprised] when I saw the goals of [William and Mary], and for the wrong reasons,” Villa wrote in an email to The Flat Hat, saying that scholarships should get prioritized over campus wellness improvements such as dining and campus safety.

Somkar Dey ’25 said while he applauded the College’s budget as being well-rounded, he wanted the board to still take into consideration the impact that the tuition increase would have on students, urging the board to reconsider its decision. 

“I truly appreciate the work that the Rowe administration, the Board, and the W&M Foundation for their initiatives to halt tuition and fee increases for the past few years to address the pandemic’s economic uncertainties,” Dey wrote in an email to The Flat Hat. “I also give immense thanks to their efforts to balance the budget for FY2023, in light of these policies. However, I believe that the pandemic years are still not behind us. Although consumer sentiment is strong across the nation, high inflation still persists. The Federal Reserve’s plans to cut federal interest rates early this year have been shattered, and we still have the highest interest rates seen in my lifetime. It proves that we are still living in an economy defined by the COVID-19 pandemic’s fallout. If anyone is going to feel the effects of these problems, it will disproportionately be young adults like me and my peers, especially those who don’t have a defined income of their own.”

In his last full board meeting at the College, Brian P. Woolfolk J.D. ’96 was the sole member to vote against the tuition and fees resolution. In his remarks preceding the vote, he highlighted the College’s increasing unaffordability for both out-of-state and in-state students, which he worried might exacerbate the financial stress of families who are already struggling to send their students to the College.

“A lot of families cannot afford right now to even go to William and Mary in-state when they’re making decisions,” Woolfolk said. “And I don’t think that our continual increase in tuition and fees has ample sensitivity to that situation.”

Woolfolk said some families have to even sacrifice healthcare and retirement to be able to afford college tuition. As a Maryland resident, he said his children can attend the University of Maryland for much cheaper than they would have if they were paying for in-state tuition at the College.

He added that he believes the board does not reflect the sensitivity for being the most expensive public institution for in-state students. 

“Now, I don’t blame anyone by it,” Woolfolk said. “I take responsibility for that, this is my eighth year on the board. I haven’t cracked through what all the issues are, but deep down, I have to be in solidarity with all those families that are struggling.”

Woolfolk told the Daily Press that he felt embarrassed by the decision and that tuition fees have gotten out of control at the College.

“And these may seem like incremental increases, to many of us on the board, but to these families, you know, saying something about $500, they’re already sweating bullets … we need to speak to them, and being deliberate, and really spend time putting together a sustainable plan,” Woolfolk said.

Former Minority Leader of the Virginia Senate Norment offered the amendment to alter the rates from 2.9% increase in in-state tuition and 3.0% for out-of-state tuition to the current rates of 2.5% in-state and 3.3% out-of-state. He shared his thoughts on Woolfolk’s comments.

“I have enormous respect for my BOV colleague Brain Woolfolk who is a man of principle and not reticent to share his held beliefs in a gentlemanly way,” Norment wrote in an email to The Flat Hat. “Higher education is a complexity of delivering an extraordinary, affordable education at W&M within a requisite ‘business model.’”

Norment said, like Woolfolk, he is very sensitive to the cost of an education at the College, as well as its financial impact on families.

“I think W&M remains too expensive and going forward the BOV must explore a creative and perhaps nontraditional approach to responsibly constrained the cost of tuition and fees,” Norment, a former professor at the College, added. “I intend to echo that refrain as the BOV moves forward.” 

Norment also pointed to the Virginia General Assembly’s budget as a factor for the board decision to increase tuition and fees.

“The reality is the General Assembly underfunds higher education in Virginia, especially financial aid, a disproportionate percentage which is embedded in tuition for financial assistance for other needy students. This is an issue that must be addressed in the future,” Norment said.

Norment concluded that the board took families into account when making the decision.

“I felt both from a financial and optical perspective a reduction of the proposed increase for instate students from 2.5% to 2.9% may appear to be ‘insignificant,’ it was a clear ‘message’ the BOV is not insensitive to the increasing cost of higher education. I stand with Brian on the side of families,” Norment said.

College President Katherine Rowe told the Daily Press that inflation was also a factor.

“Our commitment is to raise it as low as possible at any given moment,” Rowe said. Adding that inflation has “brought us to the point where we really have had to [raise tuition] in order to meet the needs and expectations of students and families.”

In the same resolution, the board approved a 3.56% increase in mandatory fees for FY 2025 and an additional 2.3% for FY 2026.  

Tuition and fees are the College’s largest revenue source, having comprised 46% of the FY 2024 revenue budget. The board’s stated reasons for increasing tuition and fees include higher faculty wages in order to retain and recruit talent, rising costs for ongoing construction projects and other unavoidable operation cost increases due to inflation. 

The governing body noted that the College’s tuition and fees have consistently tracked below inflation since FY 2020, demonstrating their commitment to charging students as little extra as necessary. 

With the extra revenue, the College aims to enhance the student experience through wellness, housing, dining and campus safety initiatives. Other stated goals include growing scholarships, strengthening career services, funding Integrated Science Center IV and supporting the College’s online software transition from Banner to Workday, slated to launch in fall 2025. 

Woolfolk was also the lone dissenting vote on Resolution 39-R: W&M FY 2025 Operating Budget, saying that he could not support providing funds to James Monroe’s Highland, adding that it was a move that glorifies an “enslaver.” He also did the same at last year’s last full board meeting.

Creation of the Marine Science Major and the Naming of the New School

The board also voted unanimously to establish a new bachelor’s degree in marine science, recognizing the increasing demand for a marine science major in recent years and celebrating the College’s next step in becoming a leader in the field. The College has offered a marine science minor in partnership with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, a graduate school of the College since 2010

The move was supported by VIMS Dean Derek Aday and BOV student representative Gwen Galleher ’24. Galleher said that as an admissions interviewer, many prospective students have expressed to her their interest in pursuing marine science at the College.

The board also formally approved the name for the latest school established last fall as the School of Computing, Data Sciences, and Physics. It is slated to open by fall 2025.

Report from SA President Sydney Thayer ’24

Student Assembly President Sydney Thayer ’24 also gave her final report to the board. In it, she said SA is working closely with the City of Williamsburg on the issue of increased police presence, saying SA aims to provide strategies to mitigate these concerns, while also strengthening its communication with the student body in an attempt to encourage safer behaviors.

Thayer also mentioned the renaming of Brown Hall to Gates Hall, and the student petition with 626 signatures calling for a reversal of the decision.

“I share this concern not to call into question the qualifications of Chancellor Gates, but rather to highlight what many students felt was a missed opportunity to honor the hallowed grounds of the Bray School,” Thayer said in her report, which she read at the full board meeting. “The frustration that many students feel regarding this naming decision comes from a broader reflection of our institution’s troubled history. In recent years, William and Mary has taken significant strides towards acknowledging the more challenging aspects of our history and giving recognition to individuals who were previously overlooked, especially from underrepresented groups.”

Thayer also mentioned that she presented a request from students that new buildings be named after Asian American figures at the College, and that the board should keep that in mind for future decisions.

She also mentioned the referendum to divest from companies with ties to Israel that passed during spring elections. 

“Even with [Rowe’s] response, I expect that student advocacy around these issues will continue to play a prominent role in campus advocacy,” Thayer said. “I share this to update you all, but also to provide a reflection on how I think we could all work to support and uplift the democratic processes where students are engaged.”

She relayed student concerns regarding the College administration.

“Our student body is passionate and steadfast in their beliefs,” Thayer said. “A common theme that I often hear from the student body amidst these conversations is that they don’t feel as though administrators are listening to their concerns or taking any meaningful action.”

She remarked that while she recognizes that student advocacy does not always persist through structures and channels that facilitate the board’s engagement with it, she believes that students have been making a more direct attempt to engage with administrators and the board. 

“That being said, many students still feel as though there has been a lack of adequate response to their concerns and as though their concerns are being brushed under the rug,” Thayer said.

Thayer concluded her report by saying there could be improvements in how the College handles student advocacy.

“The university has already shown a commitment to encouraging conversations across differences, but there is always room to grow,” Thayer said. “This semester has highlighted a number of scenarios in which it has been difficult for students to participate in productive and meaningful civic discourse. Activism and discourse should not take place on only virtual platforms, and we hope that moving forward the university can help us find more ways to engage students in constructive civic dialogue.”

Board Leadership

The board also reelected its officers for another term: College Rector Charles Poston Charles E. Poston J.D. ’74, P ’02, ’06, College Vice Rector Barbara L. Johnson J.D. ’84 and Board Secretary Ardine Williams.


  1. Important to note that one of the two townspeople who spoke at the hearing has long stood against development that would relieve the significant housing shortage Williamsburg faces in the vicinity of campus, and the over-inflated housing prices that exist as a result of that shortage. While some students at W&M do desire a residential experience, the reality is that many other students only choose to live on campus because they don’t have any other options. Many students would prefer to have their own living space, and a kitchen, and to not have to share a room with a roommate. There is simply not enough available space on campus to build dorms that replicate those requests. If W&M uses all of its available space to accommodate all students on campus, that prevents any future growth of educational and recreational space. With national college rankings increasingly based on research output, that would be a dangerous mistake. Furthermore, living off campus serves to teach students about personal responsibility, and other similar skills that will be necessary after graduation. And students living off campus spend more money at local businesses which helps them survive and feeds the local economy.

    The reality is that this townperson, like many others, seeks to force as much of the student body on possible onto campus. There would be significantly less concerns around housing if just a few of the many vacant lots directly off campus were allowed to be developed, and if the city took efforts to more greatly orient public transportation around the student population. Many other college towns have similar issues, however most of them are actively making efforts to deal with them. Williamsburg, and many of the townspeople who reside here, seem to be disinterested that unfortunately.


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