EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com is partnering with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s School of Mass Communications. Students from the project reported the following story.
RICHMOND, Va. – The VCU Board of Visitors will decide on a proposed 4 percent tuition increase for current students and a new per-credit pricing structure for incoming students in its meeting on Friday.
Although an increase in funding has been approved by the state for the next academic year, the amount of money going to VCU is still $52 million less than in 2008. VCU officials have told the Board of Visitors that without the minimum 4 percent increase and per-credit pricing VCU would not be able to provide students and faculty with more than basic services.
“There’s really no one solution to what those budget challenges would be,” said VCU Provost Beverly Warren at a recent student forum about the potential tuition increase. “So we’re looking at many kinds of things.”
VCU is attempting to save money by reallocating resources in order to become more efficient. Making parking self-sufficient and no longer subsidizing permits allows the university to put those funds into top priorities of education, faculty, facilities and financial aid for students, said Warren.
Along with receiving less money than in previous years, the state is placing an additional cost on public universities by requiring a 3 percent increase for faculty salaries and a 2 percent increase for classified staff. VCU has a total of 19,000 of both kinds of employees.
“We have, in some departments, a very great difficulty in bringing in people of high reputation, or good quality faculty, because of the competitive nature of the market,” said David Fauri, president of the VCU Faculty Senate.
But the tuition increase is not the only change on the horizon for VCU students. Current tuition rates have full-time students paying a flat rate for 14 to 18 credits. One proposed change to the tuition structure would set the flat rate at 14 credits, and then require students to pay at a discounted rate for credits above that limit. Warren said that the current flat rate tuition structure is hurting VCU, because some students are not paying for all the classes they are taking.
“That sliding scale means you are actually getting course credit hours for free,” Warren said. “If we don’t do the per-credit hour, we can’t add faculty.”
However, for the students who take more than 14 credits, tuition costs could rise significantly.
“I think for a semester like this, it would be kind of rough,” said Matthew Nichols, a music performance major, who is currently taking 18 credits. “As a music major having that many credits each semester means that I’ll be paying more.”
Nichols said the discount on credits could be nice, but that, ideally, he would like it to stay the same.
VCU is not the only university in Virginia thinking about changing its tuition structure. The College of William & Mary has already implemented increases. The “William & Mary Promise” guarantees in-state students who are currently enrolled that they will not see their tuition increase by more than the rate of inflation. For each new class, the tuition will increase and then stay consistent until graduation.
“It is an interesting year, where institutions are really trying to come up with some alternatives to make it all work,” said Kristen Nelson, director of communications and government relations at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. “I think it reflects what’s going on in general terms of the erosion of funding from the state.”
However, VCU students are still apprehensive about the possible restructuring.
“I understand that (tuition) is how the school makes (its) money, and I think a lot of students, including myself, would have mixed feelings,” said VCU student Brandon Johnson.
This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.