Virginia College Tuition More Unaffordable than Ever


Four-year undergraduate charges as percentage of per capita disposable income.

by James A. Bacon

Against the backdrop of controversy over the University of Virginia’s $2.3 billion pot o’ money, the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) has published its annual update on tuition & fee trends in Virginia public universities, reminding us that what’s happening at UVa is symptomatic of a larger trend: Tuition & fees are out of control at all four-year institutions.

Referring to the 2016-2017 academic year, here’s how the report leads off:

Most in-state undergraduates attending Virginia’s public colleges and universities will see their tuitions and mandatory fees increase this year an average of $369, or 3.6 percent, the lowest such rate in 15 years. Including only tuition and classroom-related fees, the average increase for those students came to 2.9 percent.

The state’s increase in funding for higher education made possible the lowest increases in 15 years for most students, Dan Hix, SCHEV’s finance policy director told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “These things combined make it a very good time to be a student in the commonwealth.”

The latter statement is almost incomprehensible. From an affordability perspective, it is the worst time to be a student.

Average tuition increases may be the lowest in 15 years, but a 3.6% increase exceeds an inflation rate running about 1% by a wide margin. And, according to the data in the same SCHEV report (see chart above), total undergraduate charges as a percentage of per capita disposable income will increase by 0.9% points to 47.6% — a new high.

Incredibly, the Times-Dispatch treated the SCHEV report as a quasi-good news story. “Average tuition increases held in check,” read the headline. That echoed the body of the article, which noted that SCHEV found “only a moderate rise in college costs.”

The astonishing fact is that tuition increases continue to outpace incomes and inflation by a wide margin despite a significant increase in state aid to higher education.

What is going on? Why is the problem endemic? Lacking a profit motive, four-year colleges are prestige-maximizing institutions. Other than historically black universities, which are hanging on for dear life, every public four-year institution in Virginia strives to hire more renowned faculty, increase average student SAT scores, build more magnificent buildings, accumulate larger endowments. and (if they conduct research) to attract more R&D activity. UVa and William & Mary want to become public ivies. Virginia Tech aspires to be a Purdue or Michigan. Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University want to break into the ranks of nationally recognized institutions.

When no one is happy being who they are right now and everyone is seeking to rise in comparison to institutions driven by the same imperative, there is never enough money and there never will be. The system is broken. As long as colleges have a limitless appetite for money and the federal government provides a limitless supply of student loans, tuition & fees will continue to rise.

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36 responses to “Virginia College Tuition More Unaffordable than Ever

  1. This is excellent post. It reflects, and it reports on, a growing trend in the Commonwealth and nation as a whole. Namely, the inability, and now the apparent unwillingness, of our leaders to tell us the people the truth. And how now these same leaders coordinate among themselves to actively hide the truth from the public so as to promote their own agendas for which the public ends up footing the bill, and holding the bag, when those narrow agendas that serve only the few result in failures that harm the many. In short UVA is being stolen from the citizens of the state of Virginia. This heist is going on right now, in front of our eyes.

    I believe that events in the recent past and unfolding at UVA right now are poster children for this pernicious trend. Here it is a double tragedy that we watch unfold. Here the citizens of Virginia are being forced to foot the bill for their own University whose primary goal now is to make it ever more difficult and ever more expensive for the children of Virginia citizens to attend UVA, and take advantage of an institution that those citizens built, own and have paid for.

    • UVA is merely emblematic and Virginia is not unique among states with this trend. I’m baffled that so many people accept, as if it is gravity force, that higher education costs should rise at such rates–faster than health care costs. It’s one of the most controllable ventures one could conceive.

      • well I do not accept it – I think the costs are outrageous and that the General Assembly is complicit and that should be the focus of Ms. Dragas… if she is really is committed to that goal.

        And for that matter so should Chap Petersen and company.

        Strong whiff of hypocrisy when they go after just UVA rather than the State itself putting strings on their Higher Ed money to rein them all in – in Virginia.

        that’s the duty of the GA – don’t expect ANY of the institutions to step up – as long as other institutions in other states are also running amok.

        Stop giving taxpayer money to the institutions. Give that money to the students on a means-tested basis and let them “shop” for the best deal….

        The GA is feckless on this – as well as FOIA and budget transparency for Higher Ed – to boot.

        Ms. Dragas and company are aiming at the wrong target….like the gang that could not shoot straight.

        that is – if Ms Dragas is seriously interested in actually accomplishing something for ALL students in Va and not just those snot-nosed coddled types at UVA….

  2. and yet:

    ” MONEY Magazine rankings of the 2016 Best Colleges for Your Money awarded University of Virginia third among public universities. The university also placed ninth among all colleges and universities in United States including the private institutions. The publication cited the school’s top-notch education which is offered by one of the country’s universities who have the lowest total college costs”

    • Exactly. When you look at average actual cost v. sticker cost, the numbers are a lot different. And that’s not just for U.Va., but for Virginia Tech, VMI, and William and Mary as well when you look at actual cost v. sticker cost when need-based and merit aid are included.

      The interesting aspect of the numbers is this: There are 6 or 7 “public Ivies” in America: Berkeley, U.Va., UCLA, UMich, W&M, UNC, and some include UT-Austin.

      Look at the price w/o average aid to attend each:
      Berkeley: $35,700
      UCLA: $34,300
      William and Mary: $32,400
      UMich: $28,100
      U.Va.: $28,100
      UT-Austin: $27,400
      UNC-Chapel Hill: $26,700

      One could make the observation that UT-Austin receives 13% of its operating budget from the state. UMich, Berkeley, and UCLA receive approximately 15% of their operating budget from the state. UNC receives 17% of its operating budget from the state. What % of their operating budgets do U.Va. and W&M get from the state?

    • But that’s like being named “the most affordable neighborhood in Manhattan.”

      • Or Fairfax County Public Schools pointing to the costs of other public school systems in the Metro Washington Area. Or if you prefer, back in the 70s and 80s, GM noting the quality of its vehicles by a comparison with Chrysler and Ford. Higher education has bloated costs that need to be reduced.

    • You have to watch the methodology of these rankings. Some take grants into account, some don’t. Some base the quality of the education on the salaries of the graduates. Others use different gauges.

      It’s hard for me to imagine a better value than the US Naval Academy where all the students attend for free.

      Here’s a ranking where UVa finished at #33 –

  3. here’s another:

    ” The University of Virginia is again among the top three public universities in the nation in the latest “Best College Value” rankings issued Wednesday by Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine.

    The magazine lauded UVA’s “blend of academic quality and affordability” in ranking the University No. 3 among public institutions and 42nd among all U.S. colleges and universities. UVA has ranked among the top 100 overall in each of the 15 years that Kiplinger’s has published rankings, selected from a pool of more than 1,200 schools nationwide.”

  4. CR – I’ve had issues like that also at times.. I generally do a copy of my text to save it so I can re send when it happens.

    try again! 😉

  5. A few comments as a Hoo parent:

    In-state tuition at UVA is in line with that of other public colleges in Virginia.

    UVA already is a “Public “Ivy.” It is ranked No. 2 in the country after UC Berkeley. Where do we get this “aspire to” nonsense?

    When I prepared to help my children fund college, I realized there was no way I could afford to send them to my alma mater, Tufts.Without lots of help, it would have been close to a half a million dollars.It think it cost $3,000 a year when I went and now it is closer to $50,000.

    We managed Mary Wash with no debt and some debt at UVA. Both children got great educations.

    I simply do not understand the astonishingly panicky tone of the headline of this blog post and its scary content.

    Maybe Jimbo needs a reality check

    • Peter I’m glad that your family was able to weather a path to higher ed. Not everyone is in your shoes. The reason I’ve become passionate about finding a better way to run public colleges & universities is because the escalating cost is a huge drag on our economy and a brake on advancement of the US, globally. We already have an undereducated populace; endless tuition increases funded by loans will not get us out of that decline. The reason Bacon’s UVA posts matter is that they provide a micro example, not because UVA is unique. However, it’s clear to me that public schools across the country are mostly playing the same perilous game.

    • A reply from a Hoo graduate …

      It’s the trend that counts. During the same time that the University of Virginia’s tuition and fees have been wildly outpacing inflation its overall ranking has been sinking like a stone through water. And it’s not just the well heeled private schools that have been beating UVA academically. In this year’s college rankings both UCal – Berkeley and UCLA finished ahead of UVa.

      In 1988 the University of Virginia was ranked #15 by US News & World Report. Last year it was ranked #26 by the same source.

      Rapidly escalating costs along with rapidly falling ratings – who needs a reality check?

      • 1988 and 2016 U.S. News Rankings:
        U.C. Berkeley 5
        University of Michigan 8
        UT-Austin 25
        William and Mary 22
        UNC 11
        U.Va. 15
        2016 rank and comparison to 1988:
        Berkeley 20 (-15)
        University of Michigan 29 (-21)
        UT-Austin 52 (-27)
        William and Mary 34 (-12)
        UNC 30 (-19)
        U.VA. 26 (-11)

        UCLA was not ranked that year. Though it might interest you that in 1990, UCLA was ranked 16th and U.Va. was ranked 21st in those rankings.

        Why have all the publics fallen so much? Oh, I don’t know…maybe b/c U.S. News changed its methodology to put greater weight on faculty resources and student resources and less on academic reputation.

        Why isn’t DonR pointing out that U.Va. is ranked higher than Michigan and North Carolina in 2016 than in his beloved 1988 chestnut when both schools outranked U.Va.????? Because the facts don’t fit his narrative. Why isn’t DonR pointing out that Berkeley was in the top 5 in his beloved 1988 chestnut?

        Cold, hard facts:

    • Completely agree. In addition to Money ranking U.Va. in the top 10 of all schools in America, Forbes just ranked U.Va. as the top state university in America.

      Probably the best data points that you can look at are an undergrad school’s ability to place kids in the top law/business/med programs. U.Va. consistently is in the top 20 on all those lists. For instance, U.Va. undergrad is in the top 5 for sending kids to Stanford B-School:

  6. Lift,
    It was a matter of planning out 529s. Plus one student did well enough gradewise to get a partial ride. And, both worked during most of their studies.

    It can be done and I think Virginia offers a tremendous bargain.

    When disturbs me about these conservative blogs is that they are always painting pictures of hellfire and damnation. When it comes to public universities, what they really don’t like is that some liberal ideas get discussed.

    Kids might learn about John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx instead of just Friedman and Halek.

  7. I just want to make sure that people know there are lots of ways to get a college education without paying the prices charged by the most sought after institutions nor going into debt up to your eyeballs.

    there are options. people do make choices. no one is “entitled” to the college of their dreams for cheap – much less have it subsidized by taxpayers – anyhow.

    Hundreds of thousands of people “worked” their way through college – paying as they went – as much as they could to keep the finally debt low enough for them to finish paying off in a reasonable amount of time.

    The last decade or two – people have gone bat-crap-crazy – rather than voting with their feet for “affordable” – wanting other people and the govt to make it “affordable” and/or to loan them enormous gobs of money which while easy to obtain – will cripple many financially for much of their adult lives.

    How have we got so stupid about this?


    If you want a UVA degree – fine. Do it. but isn’t it amusing that many who blame the govt on a wide variety of issues – want that same govt to “make” UVA provide a degree for less than what many f it’s peer competitors do?

    where does that kind of logic come from -whether one is one of those dratted “leftists” or a “conservative” ?

    Chap Peterson and all these other legislators who have written letters – where is their legislation to REQUIRE UVA and other Va colleges to provide an affordable degree option OR forgo some of their taxpayer-provided funding?

    letter writing is not legislating and those guys owe everyone an explanation as to why they prefer to write letters asking for “explanations” rather than writing legislation that REQUIRES explanation AND performance?

    We have all this blather about “vouchers” for K-12 to “save” the “poor” kids. what about vouchers for the college-bound to choose the most affordable option directly – on their own – to vote with their own feet?

    This whole issue is a giant CF… and the folks who want the cheap degrees as well as the feckless do-nothing legislators and the “my way” college administrators are all equally to “blame”.

    • LarrytheG, the chart is for ALL Virginia 4-year degrees, we’re not looking at UVA or elite schools. I don’t know what kind of annual income you enjoy but whatever it is, try coughing up even $14K in after-tax dollars, and then wind back the clock to when you were 18 and consider what you might do to earn that. This will get you to Tidewater Community College, a great and affordable institution, but one that is still not easy for students to “work” to cover their education.

      Why is it so hard to steer the conversation toward managing the spending in higher ed instead of arguing about how to pay for it?

    • Personally, I think voucher for higher education would be a great ide.
      A. It would totally change the d

  8. @Lift – I’m a simple guy when it comes to folks affording what they want (or think they need). It’s on you more than it is on others.

    No life is not fair but once you get your 12 years in K-12 – if you are not poor or need public assistance to survive- you need to be in that game more than you need to be expecting the “govt” – which is taxpayers to pay for your wants.

    A lot of folks would LOVE to have a degree at UVA. Unfortunately not all can really afford it – and seriously – it’s not up to taxpayers to make up the shortfall – and especially so if UVA and others are positioned to manipulate folks to get tax dollars from the govt and/or move the kid and his parents into some god-awful loan that will dog them both well into their late twentys and thirties and beyond.

    At some point – the kid – and the parents have a responsibility to see where those choices are taking them and decide if that really is their “only” option.

    There are quite a few ways to get a GOOD higher ed education without going this route.

    You do have to make your own way in this world and in this country – we have so much more opportunity than most countries.. it’s silly to listen to the portrayal of this issue …

    What kids are “entitled” to – is tuition. Yes, I’d sign off on that but only the median and not carte blanche and certainly not room&board and other costs. Those costs – you own -not taxpayers.

    remember – this is coming from those like Bacon and Crazy call the “leftist” in BR.

    we have grown fat and lazy – I’m sorry. At some point – if a kid and/or his family cannot afford a standard 4yr education – I’m sorry – but that’s not the responsibility of taxpayers – many of whom who work full time at low wages – without health insurance – and who are expected to pay taxes to – send other folks kids to UVA.


    If you want to go to UVA or Va Tech or W&M and you cannot afford it -find another way to get an education. Go to community college. work for a few years to save up what you need or work while you go part time – but take responsibility and not expect others to pay for you.

  9. re: ” Why is it so hard to steer the conversation toward managing the spending in higher ed instead of arguing about how to pay for it?”

    Isn’t it Dragas and Peterson and others who have tied the two together to start with?

    Why do either of them think it’s up to the Colleges to do that in the first place if they are not willing to have the State actually make that a requirement of state (taxpayer) funding?

    all this stuff about their “funds” is just a silly diversion unless they want to address that – again – for all institutions in Virginia instead of targeting just one.

  10. The topic of this piece is “Virginia College Tuition More Unaffordable than Ever.”

    • Oh I know – but it was preceded by a few other blogs talking about slush funds… and Dragas and then legislators contentions that the “funds” and “affordability” – ARE connected but apparently other schools costs in Va are not connected?

      it just seems like Dragas has targeted UVA on “affordability” when the problem is not just UVA.

    • Direct state appropriation per in-state student:
      UNC-Chapel Hill: $22,131
      UMich: $13,887
      U.Va. $9,518


      Does that help explain why Virginia tuition is “unaffordable”?

      • how does UVA compare to others in Va?

        again – why is the focus ONLY on UVA?

        is UVA funded LESS that other Va Universities?

        Virginia taxpayers are paying 10K per student per year – LORD!

        I’m just curious – do you know how much a credit-hour is at UVA and if I was taking a full load – what that cost would be?


        • Larry,

          I don’t have the numbers for each school. But think of it this way…If our state funded Virginia universities like North Carolina funds its own universities and kicked in an extra 13K per in-state student…guess what? Every university in Virginia would be tuition free or a couple thousand dollars per year in tuition.

          The state’s policy until 1998 was that state appropriations should cover 70% of the cost of in-state tuition and the student should cover 30%. Since 1998, we’re now looking at the state covering about 43% and the student covering 57%.

  11. I think I’m fine with approaching the issue on a Virginia-wide basis but not targeting UVA only.

    But I also think the WAY we fund these schools invites escalation of costs. Imagine if we funded K-12 schools this way or VDOT – i.e that we’d pick up 70% of whatever costs ended up being.

    And while we are comparing other states – has North Carolina NOT gone up the same way as Virginia schools and what is going to happen to their state costs IF costs keep going up and the State continue to increase funding to keep up ?

    I think the way we are funding Higher Ed invites and encourages these Universities to spend money on expansions, more staff and instructors , research, etc. – at taxpayer cost.

    Each one is building their own fiefdom and we are advocating picking up 70% of the costs – no matter what – rather than a State level reform – as opposed to targeting just one of them.

    All the “conservatives” who hang out here in BR and who decry government spending “goodies” and advocate cuts – are mute on the runaway costs for College – RELATIVE TO GOVT’s ROLE and they want to blame the Universities RATHER than have Govt do what they advocate for all other govt-paid things – and CUT!

    Why do we fund the schools rather than the students – and let the students choose the best value for them and let the “market” try to “work”.

    We are clinging to an old model of higher ed that no longer works.

    It worked when Higher Ed basically were fairly stable in their configuration and staffing and did not aspire to expand and get bigger and bigger – those expansions funded by taxpayers – not the “customers”. It’s a totally messed up system that incentivizes abusive spending.

    And all we seem to want is for Govt to “jawbone” the rising costs or intervene directly in the Universities affairs and dictate to them what to spend on what and not. Do we REALLY want higher level govt even more directly involved “hands-on” to – for instance – tell UVA that they should not be offering certain courses because they don’t have enough enrollment or that knowledge has no use in the economy and should not be offered – as a taxpayer-subsidized course?

    What the Govt should do is NOT fund anything and everything these institutions want to spend money on. They should get their money – restricted to be spent ONLY on certain things AND let the institutions themselves prioritize what to spend that money on.

    This is the problem with the folks who want the govt to come up with more money – it’s just not sustainable with the way that these institutions are operating these days.

    Without restraints – they will continue to get the students and parents to cry about costs – and use them to put pressure on the GA to come up with more and more money – every year – fund at a certain percent – no matter how high costs are going.

    Where are the folks who bill themselves as Conservatives on this issue?

    Why does Petersen and other GA “write” letters – instead of legislation – to address these abuses?

    Right now – these higher ed costs have become so high that , as a state, we say, that we cannot afford to expand MedicAid – health care – for WORKING PEOPLE – people who have full time 40hr a week jobs – and who get sick, get cancer, need routine primary care – because we are choosing instead to pay for more college professors and staff at higher ED.

    We cannot adequately fund K-12 for head start, pre-K and at-risk kids in need of special instruction – because that money is going to higher Ed…

    so what is the answer so far? “Blame UVA”.

  12. Larry,

    What’s interesting is that all the “keyboard commandos” who blather about the free market and privatization of government services clam up when it comes to U.Va. and William and Mary. At best you get, “Well, maybe, kinda, sorta, theoretically, but….” Hypocrisy is their middle name. Where are the GOP “strongmen” who insist that gov’t is the problem???

    U.Va. and William and Mary would privatize tomorrow if the state would “free them from those oppressive shackles of gov’t.”

    How would this lower the cost of tuition at Virginia universities? U.Va. and William and Mary’s direct and indirect contributions from the state total over $300 million a year. That could be $300 million to go towards tuition reduction at the other state universities that choose to remain public. I imagine an extra $300 million a year towards tuition reduction at other state schools would shave tuition costs for those “middle class” families that those “free market” types claim to care about.

    There’s also the philosophical argument of why U.Va. and William and Mary are “public” at all if you’re a “free market” advocate. “Public Ivy” isn’t a stretch. All W&M and U.Va. out of state kids have the numbers that match up with Cornell and Brown. If U.Va. and William and Mary didn’t have mandatory in-state admits, their entire undergrad student bodies would be matching the SATs of Cornell and Brown. Go take a look at U.Va.’s graduate business and law schools. They’re both privatized, both are ranked higher than Cornell by U.S. News. The Economist ranks U.Va.’s graduate business school higher than any Ivy League school. Privatization would work the same for U.Va. and William and Mary at the undergrad level.

    Imagine if we were talking about cars. Imagine the state was producing Fords and a limited number of Ferraris. The keyboard commandos on this blog would be screaming, “What in the hell is the state doing producing Ferraris? We should privatize that function tomorrow.” How many times do we hear from the Republicans that gov’t should only be for those in need and should not be providing luxuries?????????

    If these “muscular” advocates of the “private sector” were true to their principles, they’d be screaming about privatizing U.Va. and William and Mary. Instead, “Government subsidies for me, but privatization for thee!” they scream.

    $300 million in tuition reduction for in-state students is there for the taking if the state simply privatized U.Va. and William & Mary.

    • Privatizing UVA and W&M would allow a redirection of state money for research to more “urban” universities – VCA, Old Dominion & George Mason. I’ve heard a number of business leaders argue that both the state and the affected localities would likely see a significant economic boost from business-academia alliances in these locations than occurs today. I found it to be an interesting argument.

  13. We agree probably more than we disagree but I hope we agree that when the govt (or anyone giving you money) sez – “spend whatever you think you need to and we’ll cover 70%” that – that is a bad idea.

    and again -when you direct fund the Universities – you delegate to them what they would do for affordability.

    I’m conflicted by the “public ivy” idea myself if the “solution” to it is for the state to essentially try to bribe them to remain an “affordable” public Ivy and they see themselves as something different.

    At that point – you have to decide what you want the role of the State and it’s taxpayers to play – or not – but under no circumstances should taxpayers be put in the position of “we have no choice but to pay out the nose or else they’ll go private ivy”.

    and yes – the faux free market types here in BR just totally bail out of that concept when it comes to UVA… they want the govt to “force” UVA to provide an “affordable” education. Gawd Forbid they take that attitude with payday loans, eh?

  14. re: ” How many times do we hear from the Republicans that gov’t should only be for those in need and should not be providing luxuries?????????”

    there are real people who are truly in “need”. Even if their kids are top-notch academically – they could no more afford to pay even a share of college than the man in the moon.

    we’re talking about folks who are _not_ middle class – they work as high school or community college grads – not “poor” but not solid middle-class – either.

    these folks are not the same as real middle-class trying to send their kids to school -and who CAN AFFORD – minimal 4-yr colleges – but not further up in the scale like UVA or Tech or similar.

    and they – and some of the guys commenting here – believe that the govt/taxpayers should be “helping” these middle class families “afford” colleges like UVA.

    The question is – should people who work 40 hours a week but cannot get health care -and cannot afford UVA for their own kids (even WITH “help”) -be paying taxes to subsidize middle-income kids to go to UVA?

    what say you?

    serious question – some of the most terrible cases of student loans is parents (not middle class) and their kids – in serious deep debt for “trying” to do what middle class folks are doing …. that “assistance” that helps the middle class send their kids to UVA is not enough to help the lower class send their kids – without going into much deeper debt.

    should we be using tax-dollars to help middle class send their kids to schools that are more expensive than they ought to be sending them? How do we justify tax dollars when they can afford college but not the higher dollar ones?

  15. What I support for taxpayer funding of higher ed in Va is this:

    Means-tested help – to the student.

    kids whose parents are incapable of providing help for college will get the maximum help.

    kids whose parents are “middle-class” will get help that is pro-rated according to their financial ability.

    In all cases – the “help” will be benchmarked to the median costs of well-rated University-College institutions.

    Loans will ALSO be tied to “need” – as well as capability to pay it back.

    We cannot continue to support a system that says that taxpayers will pick up 70% of costs – no matter how high those costs go at some Universities – nor can we allow people to borrow money that is so large that it’s going to be a lifetime burden for many and overall will end up with a high default rate.

    We are taking stupid pills if we continue down this path.

    Targeting this to one University is missing the point.

    The Middle Class is _not_ ….. _entitled_ to an affordable degree at UVA no more than the lower-classes are entitled to an “affordable” degree at the college of their choice – either.

    Somewhere in the middle of this – people who fancy themselves as leaders – like Ms. Dragas and Chap Petersen – have to step up and stop demagoguing the issue as a UVA (only) “problem” – and admit that the idea of taxpayers funding at a fixed percent no matter the costs – is, in fact, a large factor in driving the inflation. Further they need to also accept the reality – that higher education is needed by all students in the 21st century – not just the “middle class” – and taxpayer funded responses need to be – equitable – with respect to all income levels – and not favor the middle class while neglecting the lower income tiers – ability to access higher ed – also.

    Va GOvt should not be “forcing” higher ed to do something – as much as it needs to be empowering the students to be able be financially responsible in their pursuit of higher ed.

    throwing more and more state money at higher ed itself and making huge and easy loans to students is a problem – not a solution.

    I say again. Germany offers a “free” tuition basic education to all kids but it’s only the core. If they want “more” it comes out of their own pockets … we need to do that here.

  16. Mr. Bacon:

    I’d love to read a blog post from you about the following:

    The Commonwealth of Virginia provides $3,200 to each state resident that attends a private university or college located in Virginia. The program is called the Tuition Assistance Grant.

    In an era when tuition at state universities is “unaffordable”, why is the state providing $65,000,000 a year to private universities that could go to tuition reduction at state universities? Here is a link to the appropriation (see item C (1)):

    • Interesting question. Nobody talks about this expenditure. $65 million is a lot of money. Clearly, the private college lobby has been doing its job effectively.

      Providing the tuition assistance grant (TAG) is similar to the voucher-like system that LarryG calls for. I don’t know if I support a voucher system or not, but I’m definitely intrigued by it. The question then becomes, why do we provide TAGs to students who attend private institutions while we fund public institutions directly? What is the purpose of our system of higher ed — to ensure that students enjoy access to an affordable education, or to support the institutions themselves?

      A related issue: Why don’t we privatize all Virginia colleges and universities (with possible exceptions for the community colleges) and provide TAGs for all Virginia students in place of state support for the institutions? I don’t advocate doing that, but I do favor exploring the idea. Why not?

      • I’d be 100% on board with that. We talk a lot about U.Va. and W&M on this blog, but the truth is that the major state schools are all like U.Va. and W&M in this sense: VT, JMU, GMU, ODU, and VCU get a very small percentage of their overall operating funding from the state. I think it’s a shame, but it’s certainly the state’s prerogative. But if the state wants to provide 15% or less of each school’s operational funding, then let’s go to a voucher system and privatize all of Virginia’s universities. Let them compete for student higher ed vouchers. That’s a truly revolutionary approach.

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