wake up. Our crown jewels may be slipping away.
school graduates who reside in Virginia can attend
several excellent public colleges and universities
for relatively low in-state tuition. However, I
want to focus on my two schools – together
called our “Public Ivys” – The College of
William & Mary and the University of Virginia.
parents, very middle-class employees of state and
local governments, could never have afforded Ivy
League or similar private educations for my sister
and me. It took all the resources they could
muster to help me get an undergraduate degree at
W&M and, later, a law degree at UVa.
reduced in-state tariffs, I received truly
world-class educations. My three children also
attended state colleges.
sound an alarm? Increasingly, we hear talk of
“privatization,” both from Charlottesville and
Williamsburg – widely understood as loosening or
even cutting historic ties between those two
schools and state government. In this vein, my law
school recently made a startling announcement.
More about that later.
the last decade, when UVa was preparing to launch
a massive capital campaign, a university vice
president and I privately discussed state support
for UVa and other state schools, which was
declining even then.
gentleman told me that, historically, owners who
do not provide at least 10 percent of the
operating funds for an educational institution
will lose their right of control. The Robbins
family’s landmark $50 million gift to the
University of Richmond tipped the scales, and
Virginia’s Baptists were forced to give up the
right to make the rules and appoint the governing
board there. A few years later at Emory &
Henry College, the Methodists gave up control
in the wake of successful private fund raising by
then-president Dr. Charles Sydnor.
rumblings about privatization thus far have been
mainly talk. State financial support for the two
institutions, while declining, remains above the
10 percent threshold. Excluding the UVa Hospital,
next year’s UVa budget will include 13.4 percent
state funding; the figure at W&M will be 19
percent. Yet the talk persists.
fall, W&M President Tim Sullivan outlined for
a group of alumni a proposal for sequenced
disengagement of the college from the state. It
would begin by taking control of mundane matters
such as purchasing, then move in steps toward the
core issues of rule-making and board appointment.
What might embolden William & Mary to seek
college now is poised to launch a massive capital
campaign of its own, in response to huge cuts in
state support. If it succeeds, as I believe it
will, W&M will have elevated its money-raising
prowess at least to the level of UVa, more than
twice the size, whose much-heralded 1990s campaign
raised just over $1 billion.
Of the $1 billion UVa raised back then, my law
school contributed a bit over $200 million, or
about 20 percent. It was said to be the largest
single fund-raising effort by a law school in U.S.
it happened because a good number of UVa Law’s
graduates each year migrate to our nation’s
centers of power and money, where they do
extremely well. In return, those graduates have
been generous to their school.
of this success is due to the school’s sterling
reputation. UVa is consistently ranked among the
nation’s top 10 law schools, public and private,
and among the top five public law schools.
recently, UVa Law startled many with the
announcement that henceforth it will follow
“financial self-sufficiency.” In a letter to
the school’s constituency, Dean John Jeffries
deemed this a “watershed event” in its
a nutshell, UVa Law will accept no more state
money. The cost of running this famed institution
will be borne mainly by its students, in the form
of higher tuitions. The dean said UVa Law’s
tuition will be “comparable to that of our
competitors.” To a lesser extent, private giving
will be used to help pay the bills.
Law, which has also lost much state support,
thinks its financial health will improve if it
follows what essentially is the private-school
at UVa Law’s peers -- Harvard, Yale, etc. -- now
average about $30,000. With no state funds coming
to UVa Law, in-state tuitions as such will be a
thing of the past. Grants of $5,000 per year will
be offered to Virginia students. For the immediate
future, at least, that could put the cost of a
Charlottesville legal education for our residents
in the $25,000 range. In-state tuition at UVa
Law’s is now $20,627, as compared with $11,900
at W&M and $9,123 at George Mason University.
of Virginia officials previously approved the
plan, and the dean’s letter gave assurances the
law school will remain part of Virginia’s higher
education system and subject both to state and
over time – like parental control of a child who
begins paying his or her own living expenses –
state control of UVa Law will diminish. And
officials of the larger University of Virginia,
W&M and other state schools will be watching
the Baptists lost control of the University of
Richmond, that once folksy unofficial college of
our capital city and Southside Virginia quickly
moved to refocus itself. Today, its orientation is
regional and national, and its hefty tuitions make
it hard even for students from our middle-class
families to pay the costs without major financial
too early to say the same will happen to the whole
of UVa or to W&M. But unless our state’s
funding of its colleges and universities increases
both dramatically and consistently, I would not
bet against it.
big losers would be our children, who might not be
able to afford the stellar educations their
parents enjoyed as in-state students at the
University of Virginia and William & Mary.
January 13, 2003