The UVa Model: More Money for R&D, Faculty and Financial Aid

rotundaThe University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors gave fast-track approval to the university’s $3 billion year-ahead budget. The budget includes a $64 million increase, 22%, for research funding; an additional $12 million, 11%, for financial aid; and $13.5 million more for faculty hiring. Meanwhile, despite rolling back a planned 3% next-year tuition increase to 1.5%, reports the Daily Progress, in-state students entering this fall still will pay about 20% more than those entering in 2014.

There was only one dissenting vote: from soon-to-be-outgoing board member Helen Dragas. The Virginia Beach home builder said the university should have done more to avoid tuition increases. “I think we’ve been adopting a private model of high tuition-high [financial] aid that’s unsustainable,” she said.

Dragas repeated her opposition to the plan before Thursday’s vote, saying it is a “tax” on middle-income families to help pay increasing cost of attendance for low-income families.

“If we have the constitutional authority to tax one family to pay for another, without being elected, then surely we’ve found a loophole in — rather than an intention of — the Constitution,” she said.

Rector Bill Goodwin took issue with Dragas’ statistics. The Daily Progress quotes him as saying the increase in financial aid would help middle-income families, as well as those below the poverty line. The Affordable Excellence plan, he said, used tuition increases to lower net costs.

Now, I know that Bill Goodwin is a very hard-nosed guy, and he knows numbers, but I don’t know how his numbers add up. Maybe families of middle-class students do get a small rebate. But do they come out ahead after that 20% tuition increase? I’m betting they come out behind — although I will publish any numbers that say otherwise.

Meanwhile, the larger point still stands: UVa is being run in the interest of the institution itself, not the students or the families that pay their tuition. The board salves its conscience by providing financial aid to the poor and maybe a few crumbs to the middle class. Perhaps pursuing policies that bolster R&D, hire star faculty and increase the national prestige of the institution is what UVa should do. Maybe we Virginians should begin thinking of UVa as an economic engine for Charlottesville and the state, not a vehicle for providing an affordable quality education for Virginians. But if that’s what’s happening, let’s be honest about it.


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9 responses to “The UVa Model: More Money for R&D, Faculty and Financial Aid

  1. “UVa is being run in the interest of the institution itself, not the students or the families that pay their tuition. ”

  2. I agree with Jim Bacon’s concluding paragraph.

    As an Alum I receive a good deal of material from UVA regularly. I am typically disappointed in the tone, content, and substance of this “mail” that far too often strikes me as self serving, smug, self centered, and politically correct naval gazing that tells the reader far more about the folks writing it than the purported subject. In my view, UVA has lost its soul, if this self generated mail be any guide.

    • Indeed, I find the quality, attitude and tone of this UVA generated mail so off-putting that I am often surprised at the high quality of work that I otherwise discover being done at UVA. This work I find in books written by UVA professors, one’s who’s works I discover and get excited about by paying close attention to the sources used by other writers I respect.

      I cannot recall ever, not once, being induced to read works by UVa professors as they are touted the mail sent by UVA.

  3. “If we have the constitutional authority to tax one family to pay for another, without being elected, then surely we’ve found a loophole in — rather than an intention of — the Constitution,” — Helen Dragas

    By her definition, does this mean the $67M in student fees at UVA to support athletics from 2010-2014 is unconstitutional? (And $145M at JMU and $132M at ODU and $86M at VCU and $59M at W&M). That money goes at least in part from students to scholarship athletes. Source:

    • Probably. At ODU, online students pay ~ $500 in student fee toward football stadium, yet most may never even set foot in Norfolk. IMO there is a difference between having one academic department cost more than another while collecting the same tuition and pooling their collected funding…versus having all students pay for something that some are sure never to use.

  4. And how did UVA avoid criticism for raising fees 20% when the guidance from the House of Delegates was 3%?

  5. UVA is selling a product. They’re going to charge what the market will bear – no matter what the state contributes. The money from the State will be used to further enhance their appeal and keep the price as high as the market will bear.

    Folks who like the idea of the “free market” should like this – this is how the free market really works.

    you provide a product – you focus on what customers want and provide it and success is measured by how many people want your product and are willing to pay a premium for it.

    there are hundreds of less expensive colleges who provide comparable academic rigor to earn a legitimate degree – but a degree from UVA is worth more.

    People are willing to pay more to get a better (more valuable) degree.

    it’s not that complicated.

    Any idea that the State can bribe them to keep the price low – is for chumps… who believe in unicorns and puppy dogs.

    the idea that money is being spent on lower income students..???

    let’s see the numbers… folks ought not to be fooling themselves… I’ll back up if someone provides real data that shows that… otherwise – it’s just a diversion.

  6. I think so much of the U.Va./William and Mary issue is, once again, the product of the clown show in Richmond.

    Consider this: Darden and the Law School went quasi-private in the early 00s. Those are 2 of the finest schools in the world for their disciplines. Darden is ranked the 2nd best business school in the entire world by the Economist. U.Va. Law has more U.S. Supreme Court clerks and large law firm partners than all but 4 or 5 law schools in America. Most would say that this is due to their delinking from Virginia.

    The constant critics of the U.S. News “drop” fail to acknowledge that U.Va. and W&M have dropped in this ranking based almost solely on one factor: resources. Schools that have passed U.Va. and W&M (as well as Berkeley, UMich, and UNC) are schools like Vandy, Washington U., and Rice. Go look at their tuition and compare it to U.Va./Berkeley/W&M/UNC. There’s no way that any public school is not going to drop when elite private schools keep hiking tuition and states keep cutting funding when a U.S. News criteria is resources. Every year, the resources gap between schools like Vandy and Rice v. Berkeley and Virginia gets larger and larger as do faculty salaries.

    But again, when given the opportunity for a “fair” fight like Darden and U.Va. Law these institutions easily land in the tippy top of almost every ranking. Because their high tuitions provide resources as well as the ability to attract the best faculties in the world.

    But Richmond desires to have its cake and eat it too. They want U.Va. and William and Mary to be “public Ivies”, but they cut funding and they impose in-state quotas and a soft cap on in-state tuition.

    The bottom line is this: If Virginia wants quality public higher ed, the most logical choice is to let U.Va. and William and Mary go quasiprivate like Darden/U.Va. Law or to follow the Cornell model where certain colleges remain “public” (maybe the ed schools) but the vast majority of the school is private. U.Va. and W&M will be fine as institutions if they go either route. Then the state can take its contributions to them and redistribute them to VCU, VT, ODU, JMU, GMU, etc to bolster those schools.

    But my guess is that the clown show in Richmond will keep business as usual.

  7. Pretty interesting tool – College Scorecard (Dept of ED)

    with it – you can find more than a few much lower priced colleges with high graduation salaries…

    I don’t think the Virginia General Assembly can control the Universities… and I continue to believe if you give the money to high school grads and let them pick -using tools like College Score Card – we’d have real competition and that, in turn, would impact what schools charge.

    In some respects this is not much different than how you go about buying a car – there are plenty of dealers and salesman who will hook you up with a car – but it’s up to you to be informed and not pay more than you should.

    Likewise – if you want to buy a UVA college degree and you got the academic credentials – they’ll sure as heck sell you that degree.

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