U-Va. board could approve tuition reimbursement as Youngkin demands fixed tuition

RICHMOND — The University of Virginia’s board of trustees is expected to vote on Friday to give students a one-time credit equal to its latest tuition hike, an extraordinary step that comes amid Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to maintain fees flat tuition at public universities in the state. .

Earlier this week, a finance subcommittee of the U-Va Board of Visitors. recommended giving in-state undergraduates a 4.7% credit on next semester’s tuition bill.

The restitution, which has yet to be approved by the full board, would amount to $690 per student and cost the university $7.5 million. The one-time refund would not affect the university tuition rate and does not apply to fees. Most other state universities, including Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University, have taken a similar approach by approving one-time “scholarships” to offset their tuition increases.

U-Va. Rector Whittington W. Clement said the board would likely accept the discount recommendation at a meeting on Friday. University President James E. Ryan and the school’s leadership team agree with the change, which U-Va. Spokesman Brian Coy said this stems from additional state funding for higher education, cost savings, and Youngkin’s request that all public colleges and universities in Virginia keep tuition flat. for the current academic year.

U-Va. had approved his tuition rate in December before Youngkin (R) took office.

“The University is committed to excellence, access and affordability and we have been working with the governor and his team since he made his request earlier this year,” Coy said in a statement. written statement.

With a combination of soft public appeals, behind-the-scenes arm twisting and an unusually large state budget, the Republican governor quickly convinced most of the state’s public colleges and universities to scrap plans to increase in tuition and fees this year.

The Next Inflation Worry: Rising Tuition Fees

U-Va., the state’s flagship university, was one of two holdouts, along with George Mason University. Two Youngkin administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a confidential matter, said George Mason had indicated he was working to roll back his 3% rise.

Stephanie Aaronson, spokeswoman for George Mason, wrote in an email: “We have engaged in positive discussions with the governor and hope to reach a final decision soon.”

“At a time when inflation is hurting so many Virginia families, I appreciate the steps taken by so many public universities across the Commonwealth to keep tuition flat and I applaud UVA for seriously considered taking similar action,” Youngkin said in a written statement.

Higher education has not been a major priority for the governor, who took office in January more focused on topics like K-12 schools, tax cuts, and the elimination of coronavirus restrictions. But keeping the line on tuition lines up perfectly with his efforts to curb inflation, including the elimination of the 1.5% statewide grocery tax and a failed effort to suspend the state gasoline tax.

Of the state’s 17 public colleges and universities, only three institutions began the year with the intention of keeping tuition and fees flat: Virginia Military Institute, the College of William & Mary, and the statewide community college system. The rest had announced plans to increase tuition or fees, ranging from an 8.7% increase at Virginia State University, a historically black institution in Petersburg, to a 2.9% increase at Longwood and Radford universities.

Most institutions scrapped those plans in early July, after Youngkin and the General Assembly belatedly finished work on a cash-filled state budget, including millions more for higher education. Education Secretary Aimee Rogstad Guidera issued a series of appeals to college presidents to encourage them.

Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors, which had approved a 3% increase in its base tuition for students, decided in June to award undergraduates in the state a one-time “scholarship” to compensate the expected increase.

Meanwhile, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond announced a 3.2% increase in May but, with the state budget still on hold, left some leeway by scheduling a special meeting of the board of trustees late June. By then, Youngkin had signed the state budget with increased funding for higher education; the council opted for the scholarships at this meeting.

VCU Rector H. Benson Dendy III said the The nudge from the Youngkin administration didn’t hurt, but it was just one factor that caused the school to change course, along with student feedback, final budget figures, and some “pencil sharpening”.

“The board was very interested in doing this if possible, and when they determined it could be done, we supported them,” Dendy said.

But Peter Farrell, a VCU board member and former Republican delegate from suburban Richmond, took his hat off to Youngkin.

“I give the credit to the governor,” said Farrell, who was first named to the board by Youngkin’s Democratic predecessor, Ralph Northam, and recently reappointed by Youngkin. “He really fought for all universities to keep tuition flat.”

Clement says U-Va. struggled with Youngkin’s request.

“We have great respect for the governor and his desire to help families deal with soaring inflation,” Clement said. But the board also expressed concern “not to sacrifice the national reputation that U-Va has. won,” he said. “And excellence has a cost.”

Youngkin reached out to university presidents and board members directly, with calls and in-person meetings. Clement said he and Ryan, the president of U-Va., eventually agreed to reconvene the school’s finance subcommittee on tuition to study the issue.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the subcommittee voted to recommend tuition credit to the entire finance committee, which meets on Friday morning. Clément expects from the committee and from the full Board of Visitors, which meets later that afternoon to accept the recommendation, although he expects a few dissenters.

“We didn’t do this as a knee-jerk reaction,” Clement said. “We really went back to the drawing board in a thoughtful way. Yes, we heard about the administration. They asked if we were making progress. We think it’s the right thing to do for you.

“The truth is that our fiduciary duty is to the institution we serve,” he said. “Governors always have influence, but we really approached this in a very thoughtful and deliberate way.”

Comments are closed.