Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Give Gov. Bob McDonnell credit for making higher education funding a priority in his administration and following through on his commitment to state colleges and universities.
The General Assembly unanimously passed McDonnell’s Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act in 2011, laying a foundation to increase college enrollment and degree attainment by in-state students and boost the number of degrees awarded in high-demand areas such as science, technology, engineering and health care.
Last year, lawmakers passed a two-year budget that increased state funding for higher education by more than $100 million annually.
Virginia students enrolled at public colleges and universities in the fall of 2012 saw average tuition and fee increases of 4.1 percent, the lowest in a decade.
Helped by an improving economy, McDonnell has pushed lawmakers to reverse a downward trend in higher education funding and urged college governing boards to rein in tuition increases that have strained the finances of lower- and middle-income families. But for Virginia’s top-flight colleges and universities the cost of sustaining excellence will continue to fall more heavily on tuition-paying students than on the state.
Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors last Sunday approved a 4.9 percent increase in tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates.
The university announced that its financial aid budget also will increase by about $1 million, and that its Funds for the Future program will continue to protect needy students from future tuition increases.
The board heeded McDonnell’s request to limit tuition increases to the rate of inflation after accounting for unavoidable costs.
Tech must use university-generated revenue to cover most of its share of a 17.6 percent increase in health care costs, and to cover most of the cost of faculty and staff pay raises approved by the General Assembly.
Of the $23.3 million in mandatory and unavoidable cost increases Tech faces in the upcoming year, the state will pay just $8 million.
State general fund dollars cover just 27 percent of the instructional budget for the current fiscal year, according to the university.
Tuition and fees from Virginia students cover 35.6 percent and another 31.8 percent comes from out-of-state students.
That’s far from where things stood just 12 years ago, before two recessions and policy shifts in Richmond dramatically reduced state support for higher education and led to sharp tuition increases. In the 2000-01 year, when a statewide tuition freeze was in effect, Tech received $182.2 million from the state’s general fund, or $9,501 per in-state student, for its instructional costs.
This year, Tech received $136.5 million in state funding for its education and general budget, or $6,355 per in-state student.
The university has taken steps to contain costs, increase year-round use of the campus and boost enrollment of in-state students. It will charge out-of-state students about 156 percent of what it costs to educate them in the upcoming year, partially subsidizing the educations of Virginia residents.
Tech produces about 31 percent of the so-called “high demand” degrees awarded by Virginia’s four-year colleges. By almost every measure, it is meeting the goals McDonnell set out at the beginning of his administration.
However, if Virginia’s colleges are expected to remain accessible and affordable, and produce the workforce for the top jobs of the 21st century, the state’s commitment must continue to grow after McDonnell leaves the governor’s office.
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