The University of Virginia’s College at Wise enrolled 23 out-of-state, Appalachian students who will pay in-state tuition this fall.
The students are taking advantage of a new law signed by Gov. Ralph Northam in March that allows students who live within the Appalachian Regional Commission territory — stretching from rural New York to Mississippi — to pay in-state tuition to attend the school.
Those 23 students make up about 8% of the school’s freshmen class of 288 students. UVa-Wise has about 2,000 students enrolled this semester. Of those, a vast majority are from Virginia.
Tuition and mandatory fees cost $10,252 for in-state students and $28,661 for out-of-state students. Students within about a 50-mile radius of the school in Tennessee and Kentucky were previously eligible for reduced tuition.
Out-of-state students generally pay the full cost of their education, while state taxes subsidize the cost of in-state students.
School officials have said the lower tuition rate for Appalachian students is one way for the liberal arts college, which is part of the University of Virginia, to counter an enrollment drop affecting many small colleges across the country.
The school’s overall enrollment has consistently been more than 2,000 students for the past decade, fluctuating up and down by less than 100 students per year. The last couple of years, according to State Council of Higher Education for Virginia data, the numbers have dropped.
The new ARC tuition rates should help the school reverse that trend next fall, said Chris Dearth, the school’s vice chancellor for enrollment management.
For many years, UVa-Wise has drawn students from the east. Now, the school can expand its footprint to surrounding states to attract students at a more affordable rate, he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for us being so close to Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina,” states that have many counties in the ARC area, Dearth said.
Almost two dozen students as part of the program is a great start, he said. After all, because of the timing of the law, UVa-Wise had little time to get the word out to students across Appalachia.
The ARC tuition rates are hardly the only way the school is trying to draw in more students. Starting this year, the college also offers iPads, an Apple Pencil and smart keyboard to all of its students while they’re in school with an option for them to buy the tablets upon graduation for $1.
The college also plans to kick off its first earnest marketing campaign at drawing students across the region to Wise County.
“We need to tell people across the ARC of the great job we’re doing educating students,” he said.