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Va. colleges raise tuition despite governor’s request

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Just one day after learning she’d been accepted into the University of Virginia, James River High School senior Madison Ruddy is also learning that her family will pay $12,458 for her first year of education.

UVA recently announced a 4 percent tuition increase.

“My dream is to go to medical school,” Ruddy says.  “If the cost continues to rise, that’s definitely going to affect me.”

In the last few weeks, UVA, Virginia Tech, Virginia Military Institute and Virginia State University have all announced tuition hikes ranging from 2.9 percent to 5 percent.

The College of William and Mary’s governing board approved a 14 percent increase in annual tuition for incoming students, but locked it in for the next four years.

Republican State Delegate John O’Bannon says he believes tuition increases will put an unfair burden on many Virginia families.

“The average Virginia family is going to have a hard time keeping up with this,” O’Bannon says.

The tuition increases come on the heels of legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2012 that gave an additional $230 million to Virginia’s colleges and universities.

O’Bannon says the 2-year initiative was passed, in part, to keep tuition rates from rising.

In a letter to college presidents last year, Governor Bob McDonnell asked schools to hold down tuition.  The governor argued that Virginia students have seen double-digit tuition hikes annually, on average, for the past decade.

“This trend is unacceptable and cannot continue,” the governor wrote.

O’Bannon says while tuition caps were not written into the legislation, there was an unspoken understanding with state colleges and universities. “We clearly had an understanding and a commitment that part of what we did would be met by the universities keeping the tuition down.”

Many institutions argue that state budget cuts have forced governing boards into difficult fiscal decisions.

According to a report by the State Council of Higher Education, between 1992 and 2012, general fund appropriations to public higher education in Virginia fell from 14 percent to 10 percent of total state appropriations based on the revised budget for FY12.

On a per student basis, general fund appropriations declined by 23 percent at four-year institutions over the same time period.

In 2012, the governor pledged to continue to make new investments in higher education in future budgets as the economy improved.

However, O’Bannon believes colleges could dig deeper to make cuts that would decrease the need for tuition increases.

“I would love to see real good business level accountability,” O’Bannon says.

James River High School senior Mo Waddell says the rising cost of college is the primary reason he’s enlisting in the Marines after graduation.

He hopes to attend college later using his GI Bill.

“I’ll do four years active duty and then four years in the reserves while I go to school,” Waddell says.