The University of Virginia is preparing to take another step in its incremental evolution toward a private-university business model. The Board of Visitors is scheduled to vote this week on a proposal to increase undergraduate tuition by 3.6% — and at the graduate-level programs at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy by a whopping 39% for in-state students.
The undergraduate tuition increase maintains the relentless increase of past years. While 3.6% seems modest in absolute terms, it occurs against a backdrop of negligible inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer-price inflation for the 12 months ending February was zero… as in 0.0%. Nothing new here — this is Business As Usual. Despite negative PR regarding campus rapes and race relations, UVa continues to exercise its pricing power as an elite institution. It can increase tuition, so it will.
The main constraint is not market demand but political. Administrators are pushing as fast as they can without sparking a legislative backlash. Politically, the tender spot is the cost of an undergraduate education. What Virginians value is the ability, if they can meet the stringent admission requirements, to get a top-flight undergraduate education (and/or debauched party experience in the fraternity scene) at a price that is affordable to the middle-class.
Graduate programs are a different matter. Voters don’t get as upset if UVa’s super-elite business and law schools charge more. Batten School administrators, reports the Daily Progress, are moving toward a “high tuition/high financial aid” pricing model similar to programs at Georgetown University, Duke University and the University of Michigan. Expect to see more of the same in the university’s other prestigious graduate schools.
(Update: Lo and behold, a follow-up Daily Progress article notes that the Darden School of Business is jacking up tuition by 5.9%, while the School of Law tuition will rise 4%.)
Bacon’s bottom line: Deep down inside, UVa wants to be an elite Southern Ivy like Duke. I say, let ’em be what they want to be. Let ’em admit whom they want and charge what they want. Take the $133 million in state support and use it to build up Virginia’s non-elite institutions.
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