Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

Gilder Guts Higher Ed

George Gilder. Photo credit: Wall Street Journal-

No wonder conservatives and libertarian voters are getting increasingly jaundiced about higher education. They’re reading more and more devastating take-downs of America’s colleges and universities like those expressed by author George Gilder in an interview by Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal. I quote liberally to make sure readers get the full effect.

As we talk of capitalism and America’s universities, Mr. Gilder sits upright, unable to mask his indignation. “The point is that we didn’t want manufacturing in this country, and we suppressed it. All of our colleges are devoted to stopping things rather than starting them.” The “whole focus” of science in American higher education, he says, is on “the dangers and perils of technology rather than its promise.”

America’s university system, says Mr. Gilder, is “incredibly corrupt and ideological.” How did it come to be like that? Surely, I observe, it wasn’t that way when he graduated from Harvard in 1962. “It was beginning to get that way,” he says, and he revs his engines for a fresh sortie. “The rise of affluence through the 1960s created this kind of amazing irresponsibility that resulted in a whole generation losing track of reality.”

The pithy apercu is Mr. Gilder’s forte. He tells me here that “human beings have a propensity to believe in leftism — in the idea that government can “answer all of their problems, guarantee the future, and relieve them of the challenges of life.” The idea of a “completely providential government” arose in America, and a “whole generation of young people were given college loans in a fabulous national mistake, in which the Republicans participated.” These loans were used by the university system to “increase perks and tenured luxuries” — all of which led to the “diversity campaigns and CO2 panics” that currently dominate university faculties.

The only way to undo this “vast blunder,” says Mr. Gilder, is to forgive student loans across the board and “extract the money from all the college endowments and funds that were used to just create useless departments and political campaigns.” More than $1.5 trillion in student loan money is outstanding, according to the Federal Reserve. That money, Mr. Gilder says, “wasn’t deployed to improve education. Not a scintilla of evidence has been adduced that learning has been improved. It was used entirely to lavish on bureaucracies that, in turn, paid tribute to government and leftist socialism.”

The impact of these loans, and of the academic ecosystem they engendered, has been catastrophic, in Mr. Gilder’s view. “The result was to destroy the entrepreneurial optimism of a whole generation of young people, to drive them toward socialism, which they now tend to favor, and even dissuade them from marriage.” The last is a consequence of debt, “which cripples them for the future.”

Gilder’s critique is hyperbolic at times — more accurately describing elite institutions than community colleges and land-grant universities — but it captures the way in which many institutions use tuition, fees, room and board to soak the booboisie, whose values they often ridicule, and extract wealth by means of student loans from the poor and minorities, whose well being they supposedly espouse. Talk about privilege!

At some point the middle class will revolt against higher ed. At some point. Right now, there are few signs of declining enrollment at at small, less prestigious liberal arts institutions that have priced themselves out of the market. But the more people listen to intellectuals like Gilder, the sooner the day of reckoning will come.

Higher Ed’s Hidden Influence: Alumni Legislators

Fund-raising tip for public colleges and universities: Get more of your alumni elected to the General Assembly. Across the country, a higher number of graduates of public colleges and universities is associated with higher funding for a state’s public higher-ed system, finds a new study, “School Spirit: Legislator School Ties and State Funding for Higher Education.

“One additional legislator who attended the state’s public college or university is associated with a 0.5% increase in the total state funding for that state’s total higher education system, holding all else constant,” write Aaron K. Chatterji, Joowan Kim, and Ryan C. McDevitt in a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

For an average state, an elected representative is associated with an additional $4.9 million in annual state funding. For a specific institution, election of an alumnus is associated with $49 million increase in funding.

By the tenets of conventional political analysis, higher ed would be a weak player in the political system. In Virginia, public universities don’t organize political action committees, and they don’t raise money for political candidates. In marked contrast to real estate/construction, financial services, health care, law, energy, and other money powerhouses, higher ed does not even warrant a breakout listing in the Virginia Public Access Project data base of major campaign donors. Over the past 20 years, “professors/staff” of public colleges (a category that includes university foundations) have donated only $4.3 million to Virginia political campaigns (overwhelmingly to Democrats).

But public universities do tap alumni to advocate on their behalf. And, as it turns out, among the most effective of those alumni are state legislators, according to the Chatterji et al study.

One might suggest that the authors of the study developed a data set of 96,000 legislators for the years 2002 through 2014 and ran a complex statistical analysis to document the obvious. But what might seem “obvious” isn’t always true. And the magnitude of the effect is not always evident. It is clear from Chatterji et al’s data that on average the effect is significant.

What may be true on average across the 50 states, however, is not necessarily the case here in Virginia. Average numbers can conceal considerable variability. So, consider the study as an indicator of what might be the case in the Old Dominion, pointing the way for follow-up research.

I knocked out some quick numbers this morning, inspecting the biographies of Virginia’s 100 House of Delegates representatives to see which institutions of higher education they attended, if any. Not all of our delegates attended college. Eleven, by my count, attended community college but did not pursue advanced degrees. Many attended private colleges, often out of state, who are not included in the numbers. But 46 have undergraduate degrees from Virginia public colleges and 16 (often overlapping with those with undergrad degrees) have graduate degrees from public Virginia institutions.

Without question, Virginia’s public institutions of higher education have an extensive alumni network to tap when pushing for legislation. To what degree do old-school loyalties affect delegates’ decisions? Do graduates of in-state institutions vote any differently from grads of out-of-state colleges and universities? That question will take extensive additional investigation to answer.

Virginians Like their Colleges, But…

A broad majority of Virginians — 80% — believe that the state’s community colleges are “worth the cost,” according to a poll recently published by the Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Sixty-six percent answered that four-year public colleges are worth the cost. But a bare plurality — 49% compared to 48% who disagreed — responded that private four-year colleges and universities were worth the money.

Ironically, community colleges are experiencing the worst erosion in enrollment of the three categories of higher education as prospective students decide they would rather take jobs in a booming economy than undergo training to get jobs.

In a double irony, Virginians who made the most money (more than $100,000) and had the highest level of education (a college degree) were significantly more likely to believe that community colleges were worth the money than Virginians with high school educations or less, or those making less than $50,000.

The poll, a random sample of 802 adults in Virginia conducted by landline and cell telephone from July 10-30, has a margin of error of 3.49 percentage points.

An implication of the poll is that Virginians are attuned to the cost of higher education. Consumers look most favorably upon community college, the least expensive of the three categories. Most also look favorably upon public colleges and universities, which are heavily subsidized by the state, though by a smaller margin. Virginians are most likely to be skeptical of the value proposition offered by private colleges, where the cost of attendance is highest on average (although most institutions discount tuition based on financial need).

Another implication of the poll is that private four-year colleges, most of which are liberal arts institutions, have a significant image problem to overcome. A quarter of Virginians (24%) responded that they “strongly disagree” with the proposition that private four-year colleges are worth the cost, while another quarter (24%) somewhat disagreed. Shrinking enrollment is threatening the viability of many small, liberal arts institutions. A hypothesis worth testing is that a significant share of the higher-ed market is shifting from higher-cost private colleges to lower-cost public colleges — thus throwing a lifeline to public colleges which otherwise might have been pricing themselves out of the market.

Finally, it is worth noting that among all the demographic variables collected by the pollsters — including age, employment status, race, education level, and geographic region — the most telling was party affiliation. While 79% of Democrats said that colleges and universities in Virginia are “doing a good job” in providing workforce skills, only 58% of Republicans and 51% of independents believed the same. Conversely, 40% of Republicans thought they were “doing a bad job,” while only 15% of Democrats believed the same.

In future polling, the Wilder School might explore this divide. Has the perception of politically correct thinking and ideological hostility to conservatives in higher ed soured Republicans on higher education generally? Has the animus generated by the campus culture wars spilled over to Republicans’ appraisals of the value of higher education? One would think that administrators would want to know whether or not they are alienating a third of their potential market.

Bacon Bits, Your Tasty Morning Info Treat

More hidden deficit spending. Virginia devoted 33% less to capital spending on K-12 schools (inflation-adjusted) in 2016 than in 2008, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That compared to a 26% reduction nationally. The cuts, say CBPP, “mean less money to build new schools, renovate and expand facilities, and equip schools with more modern technologies, further diminishing the environment in which teachers educate and children learn.”

The CBPP made no effort to correlate the capital spending with K-12 enrollment, which has increased only modestly nationally since 2008 after years of strong growth. Presumably, stable enrollment limits the need to build new schools. However, it should surprise no one if school systems were engaging in hidden deficit spending by deferring maintenance and repairs.

Best colleges for the money. From Money magazine, which considered graduation rates, tuition charges, family borrowing, alumni earnings, and 22 other data points to rate educational value: University of Virginia, 10th best in the country; Washington & Lee University, 24th; Virginia Tech, 29th; James Madison University, 39th. Four Virginia colleges in the top 50. Not bad.

What if there aren’t any fascists to fight? When there weren’t any fascists to be found at weekend rallies in Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, Antifa, the so-called anti-fascists, found someone else to fight. Yesterday, I noted how they turned on the police. Today, the Washington Post’s Avi Selk details how they turned on the media. “Videos show Antifa members accosting reporters specifically because they’re reporters.” Antifa uses the cause of anti-racism to shield the fact that they are enemies of a free society.

Coal mines and methane. Three hundred active and 200 inactive coal mines identified by Climate Home News account for one-tenth of all U.S. methane emissions into the atmosphere. Methane has 34 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Environmentalists have criticized natural gas as an electric power source. Although natural gas combustion produces less CO2 than coal combustion, the argument goes, when methane leakage from gas pipes and wells is taken into account, the natural gas supply chain is just as bad for global warming. I responded that the argument failed to take into account the massive outpouring of gas from coal mines, but I had no hard data. Now I do. Thanks Climate Home News!

Specific Updates: Lobbyists, Lottery, Tuition

A few updates, clearing the decks before I disappear next week (I’m not quite as dedicated as Bacon, although I will take the laptop to Duck.)  My son who blogs on University of Virginia sports is going to give me some tips.  (StLouisHoo or something like that…)

Specifics on Who is Not Specific

The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) has once again demonstrated the power of a good chart (see above), this one tracking the number of 2018 disclosure forms filed by lobbyists which list bill numbers, and frankly it is a lower percentage than even I realized.   Absent any corrective action by the existing oversight committee or legislators, who are probably not motivated to require more disclosure, the number of disclosure forms listing bills by number will drop further.  No consequence, no change.

If the situation changed, you can see on VPAP the potential for a real tracking system where you could see which companies or associations weighed in on which bills.

Specifics on Who Plays the Lottery

Source: Virginia Lottery

A request for additional information on lottery spending or lottery frequency by income category, following my earlier report, drew a response from the Virginia Lottery that the information is not available.  Perhaps it is a question they do not want to ask or a survey crosstab they do not want to see.

My query did produce some additional data on who plays which games.  It was interesting that those with the lowest level of education, the 12 percent of respondents who didn’t finish high school, are least likely to play and of course least likely to have much discretionary income.  (They are underrepresented in the sample, however.)  People with a high school diploma but no college are the heaviest players of daily games and scratch games, which as noted earlier produce the most revenue.

Additional data was sent on the purchase of lottery tickets by automatic debits or charges, called a subscription in their terminology.  That approach to playing is most popular in the more economically healthy and urban regions of the commonwealth.

Source: Virginia Lottery

They did push back a bit on my assertion that the purchase of U.S. Treasury investments to cover deferred future payouts is another way the house wins, and correctly pointed out the state lottery doesn’t gain any benefit from that.  Yes, in that case I was using the term “the house” to mean government in general, including the federal government, which most certainly benefits from this steady market for these securities.

Specifics on Higher Education Inflation

You read it first on Bacon’s Rebellion a few weeks ago, but the large increase in the tuition and fees bills for this coming term at the state’s public colleges and community colleges is now fully detailed in the official release from the State Council of Higher Education.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage is here.

Tasty Bacon Morsels of the Day…

Lots of updates to stories we have been following here on Bacon’s Rebellion:

How to lose in a landslide. The media was all over the story about racist posts by a Corey Stewart campaign consultant. Here’s the lead from the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart has paid more than $100,000 to a campaign consultant who has called the NAACP a “more violent” version of the KKK and said only a “fool” would start a business in a black neighborhood.”

John Whitbeck, the immediate past chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, had the following reaction: “The Democrats’ only message against us right now is we’re racists, because they don’t have any agenda and they don’t have any message. If you make despicable tweets like that, all you’re doing is feeding the narrative that the Democrats are trying to use against us.”

From every sign I see, Stewart is going down in political career-ending flames. The only interesting question at this point is whether he will drag down the Republican Party with him. Meanwhile, Libertarian Party candidate Matt Waters, where are you? There are thousands of homeless Republicans right now who might want to vote for you — if only they knew you were out there.

Cheaters never prosper. A state investigation has found that a five-teacher cheating ring at Richmond’s Carver Elementary School gave pupils “inappropriate” assistance during Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. Some teachers helped students if they raised their hand or indicated whether items were correct or incorrect, reports the Times-Dispatch. The school had garnered recognition for the high achievements of its poor, inner-city pupil population.

School principal Kiwana Yates, who had received the R.E.B. Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership, has been replaced, but remains in the employ of the Richmond school system.

Will they strike or won’t they? In continued negotiations with its labor unions, Washington Metro management has agreed to raise wages for office employees and to stop outsourcing 31 of 271 janitorial jobs. In exchange, AFL-CIO Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 2 agreed to let Metro raise the health care insurance contributions of its members, creating a savings for the money-losing mass transit organization of $2.3 million. Said General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld: “We didn’t get everything we hoped for and neither did Local 2; however, this agreement fairly compensates employees while reducing Metro’s costs.”

Standing up for intolerance. Two historians have resigned from the University of Virginia’s Miller Center to protest the appointment of Marc Short, former legislative affairs director for the Trump administration. Melvyn P. Leffler and William I. Hitchcock said the appointment runs “counter to the Center’s fundamental values of nonpartisanship, transparency, openness, a passion for truth and objectivity, and civility.”

“Democracy today in the United States is in peril,” they wrote, according to the Washington Post. “… We must not normalize or rationalize hateful, cruel and demeaning behavior. When we see things to be wrong, we must speak out and take a stand.”

So, the solution to Trump’s partisanship is to trump it with ever greater partisanship? The response to Trump’s intolerance is to demonstrate even greater intolerance to those associated with him?

Leftists Protest Marc Short Appointment at UVa

Marc Short

The Miller Center, a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia dedicated to presidential scholarship and public policy, has taken the bold step of hiring an outgoing member of the Trump administration, Marc Short. The Center is experiencing predictable blowback from campus leftists who regard the hiring of anyone from the Trump team as an abomination.

This morning more than 300 professors, librarians and students had signed a petition on, invoking the emotionally charged, upcoming anniversary of the Unite the Right rally to object to Short’s appointment.

As we approach the first anniversary of the white nationalist violence against this university, this town, and our friends, neighbors, students faculty and staff — all of whom are represented among the injured — it is unconscionable that we would add to our university a person who served in a high-level position for the administration that first empowered, then defended, those white nationalists.”

The university should not serve as a waystation for high-level members of an administration that has directly harmed our community and to this day attacks the institutions vital to a free society. …  While we do not object to dialogue with members of this administration, we do object to the use of our university to clean up their tarnished reputations. No one should be serving at the highest levels of this administration, daily supporting and defending its actions one week, then representing UVA the next.

Not only should the appointment be revoked, says the petition, “a full review [should] be held to understand how this appointment was made.”

The petition presented no evidence that Short, a White House liaison to Congress and a frequent administration spokesman on television, had “supported” or “defended” white nationalists himself. Indeed, a CNN article on Short’s departure highlighted his role in legislative matters such tax cuts, Supreme Court nominations, Obamacare repeal, not the divisive culture-war issues raised in President Trump’s tweets.

Last night, the Miller School was hanging tough. Howard Witt, director of communications, said in an email to Politico that the Miller study is nonpartisan, bipartisan, and employs former officials from both Republican and Democratic administration.

“We understand and respect those UVA faculty members and other critics — even some from within the Miller Center — who disagree with the decision to name Marc Short a senior fellow. One of our core values is fostering robust, but civil, debate across our nation’s bitter partisan divide,” said Howard Witt, director of communications and managing editor at the Miller Center, in an email.

Witt said the addition of Short “deepens our scholarly inquiries into the workings of the American presidency. And his presence reinforces our commitment to nonpartisan and bipartisan dialogue among scholars and practitioners of good will who may nevertheless hold strongly opposing personal political viewpoints. Moreover, Short can offer insights into the Trump administration that are not currently available to our scholars or the public at large.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Kudos to the Miller Center for sticking to its commitment to foster dialogue across the partisan divide. In a nation where political polarization intensifies daily, institutions that support open dialogue are more indispensable than ever.

It comes as no surprise that UVa leftists are trying to derail the appointment. Enforcing orthodoxy by shutting down dialogue is in their DNA. Lions hunt, hyenas scavenge, parasites infect, and leftists purge dissenting views.

This controversy bears watching. The stop-Short campaign started just yesterday — the petition went live around 6 p.m. — so it hasn’t had much time to build momentum. If the opposition gains steam, it could become a huge test for Jim Ryan, who becomes UVa’s new president Aug. 1. Bacon’s Rebellion will be watching. Alumni will be watching. And Virginia legislators will be watching.

Shrinking Community Colleges Looking to Pivot

Germanna Community College

Nothing like losing a quarter of your customers to get your attention.

That basically is what has happened to Virginia’s Community College System, with last term’s enrollment down 57,000 (actually only 22 percent) from its peak six years ago during the early days of the economic recovery. That drop exceeds the total enrollment at the 17 smaller campuses and has cost the institutions millions in revenue and forced personnel cuts.

Chancellor Glenn DuBois and two of the community college presidents shared that information and spent about an hour Tuesday with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia laying out steps underway to attract more students, which will have to happen if Virginia is to meet the goals it has set for degrees and work certifications.

DuBois, who has served as chancellor since 2001, spoke again during the meeting at Richard Bland College of his vision of “a college graduate in every household” and of abolishing the phrase “first-generation student.”

One response has been only modest increases in VCCS tuition and fees for the coming year, at 2.5 percent below the official inflation rate and in stark contrast to the four year institutions. The annual cost for a full semester load is around $5,000, but DuBois noted that is still a great deal of money for many Virginians. Students in the community colleges are older, lower income, working part time. Fifteen of the 23 schools have food banks.

Like many of his predecessors, Governor Ralph Northam has made education and workforce development a high priority and Northam talked during his campaign about lowering or eliminating the cost of attending the public community colleges. About 20 states now have some version of a “promise program” where all or some high school graduates face no tuition bills at community colleges.

DuBois said that remains under discussion, which was confirmed a bit later in the meeting by the Governor’s Chief Workforce Advisor Megan Healy. But with a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars, “I don’t think that’s going to happen this year,” Healy said. In 2019 the General Assembly will be considering budget amendments, but the Governor doesn’t do his own full budget until 2020.

Absent a sudden commitment to free or almost free tuition, a VCCS task force responding to the situation focused heavily on marketing and process improvements. They are leaving the comfort zone, DuBois said, using words like “pivot” and “evolve.”

What if students didn’t have to apply to attend? The system is working on an open enrollment approach, but it isn’t there yet. It is making progress on reducing the paperwork and migrating the application process to smart phones. People should enroll in one day, “one and done,” said President Janet Gullickson of Germanna near Fredericksburg. “Believe it or not, that’s radical.”

The task force also said to make scheduling, degree planning, advising and even payment and financial aid compatible with the mobile environment. An early alert system can flag a struggling student, so a counselor reaches out to them rather than the other way around.

Do people understand how an associate degree or even a workforce certificate can boost their income? Better marketing may spread the word about the FastForward program which offers reimbursement grants on completion of a workforce credential. The grants “sold out” in their first two years and the General Assembly boosted the funding for this new budget, which may sell out again.

The target audience is no longer 18 to 24-year-olds. DuBois mentioned a Winchester man who lost his long-time job at a recycling center, came to the community college looking for his GED, but in 12 weeks earned a manufacturing technician certificate. He quickly landed a job with 40 percent more pay and, for the first time in his life, full benefits. He will be highlighted as the 10,000th FastForward graduate.

Another popular certificate program for forklift operations takes just four days. Before any of these programs is approved there is a demonstrated demand for the skills.

Gullickson mentioned a basic marketing problem she found at Germanna when she started – no one able to translate for Spanish students dealing with administrative matters. With the changing demographics in that region, the website needed a Spanish version, at an 8th grade reading level so the parents of potential students could understand it.

Work continues eliminating remaining barriers or duplicate requirements for students seeking to start at a community college and then transfer to a four-year institution. There are state grants for that process, too, which not long ago was getting the most attention as a new role for the community colleges. But based on comments Tuesday, the long-term response to the current challenge may be a system that looks more like its original 1960’s focus on workforce training.

More Proof that Higher-Ed Sticks It to the Middle Class

Source: American Enterprise Institute

As the cost of attending top four-year college marches relentlessly higher, students from higher-income households are doing just fine: Their family incomes are matching the increase in tuition, fees, room and board. And lower-income students are faring pretty well, too: Scholarships and financial aid cover most of the rising costs. So, if the affluent and the poor aren’t suffering, who is feeling the pain? The middle class.

A new report by the American Enterprise Institute shows that the big losers from the higher-education business model for leading four-year institutions — aggressive increases in tuition and other expenses offset by generous financial aid for lower-income students — has suppressed college attendance by the middle class.

“We find that, contrary to popular perceptions, the share of students at the 200 more selective colleges who are from low-income families did not decline over the period we studied,” write Jason D. Delisle and Preston Cooper in “Low-Income Students at Selective Colleges: Disappearing or Holding Steady?

After factoring in grant and scholarship aid, annual net tuition prices at selective colleges have increased by only $11,358 for low-income students since 1999-2000, after adjusting for inflation. For high-income students, the increase was $8,162. …

The strongest trend in the data is a decline in the share of students in the middle two income quartiles. In other words, the enrollment gains of high-income students in the mid-2000s came at the expense of middle-income students.

This trend has received relatively little attention from the education community and the national media. It suggests that the narrative regarding income stratification at selective colleges is only half right. Enrollment at selective colleges has changed over time, but it is middle-income students, not low-income students, are becoming less represented on these campuses.

In the 1999-2000 academic year, 39% of the students enrolled at the top 200 institutions came from the second and third income quartiles. By the 2015-16 academic year, the percentage had fallen to 29%.


Bacon’s bottom line: If you wonder why the American middle class is feeling all cranky and out of sorts, is voting for crazy candidates, and seems immune to the what’s-the-matter-with-Kansas narratives peddled by the intellectual elites, it’s because of things like this. Upper-income Americans are paying more for tuition than ever — but they can afford it. Their incomes are increasing, too. Lower-income Americans are treated with great solicitude by college administrations and boards of trustees (comprised overwhelmingly by handsomely paid elites) and given huge breaks on their tuition. The middle class, especially the second quartile (as can be seen in the graph above) is left sucking hind teat.

Combine what’s happening in higher ed with what’s happening in health care, another sector where costs are running out of control. Affluent Americans are insulated from rising medical costs because their incomes are rising. Meanwhile, the political class extends its solicitude to lower-income Americans by expanding Medicaid. What does the middle class get? Not much of anything.

Similar arguments can be advanced for the effects of energy policy, foreign trade, immigration policy and more. Then toss in the insufferable smugness, arrogance and moral condescension of elite opinion makers, and it’s no wonder so many working- and middle-class Americans feel alienated from the political status quo. It explains a lot about what’s happening in the country today.

Students Be Damned, Taxpayers Be Damned

Pretty much since the dawn of time, Virginia’s public four-year colleges and universities have blamed soaring tuition charges on cutbacks to state support for higher education. So, this year the General Assembly funded significant increases in General Funding support, ranging from about 3% for the University of Virginia to 18% for the UVa campus at Wise. And in response, Virginia’s four-year public colleges dutifully reined in their increases for tuition and fees…

Har! Har! If you fell for that last line, you are truly a fool. As you can read in the previous post by Steve Haner, Virginia’s higher ed establishment jacked up tuition by roughly 6% on average, moderated by a somewhat more modest increase in mandatory student fees. The public colleges and universities did what they always do, which is charge as much as they can get away with.

In the chart above I show the T&F (tuition and fee) increase for each institution between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019, based on figures provided by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and published in Steve’s post. Then I show the increase in state General Fund funding based on the budget submitted by outgoing Governor Terry McAuliffe. (Note: These figures do not represent the final budget approved by the General Assembly and signed into law, which I cannot find online. While the legislature might have tinkered with the numbers, however, they did not change significantly.)

Compare the two columns and you’ll see that UVa and Virginia Tech conducted themselves with restraint, hiking tuition & fees by the smallest percentages, even though the General Assembly gave them the most parsimonious increases in General Fund support. Every other institution raised rates in total disregard for the generous allotments bestowed upon them. Standouts were Christopher Newport University, which hiked fees by 8% in the face of a 5% increase in support, and Virginia Commonwealth University, which is extracting 6% more from its students despite a 5.3% increase in state aid.

Single year-to-year comparisons of state support can be tricky because sometimes the General Assembly throws in large sums of money to support strategically important programs such as, this year, cyber-security. George Mason University was the major beneficiary of that initiative, which may explain its 10.5% increase in state support. Also, it is important to view the actions of an institution this year in the context of their actions in previous years and in the context of state budget actions, such as cuts to budgeted state support made in response to a deficit scare in fiscal 2018. Therefore, a snapshot analysis like this should be viewed as preliminary and provisional for any given institution. But viewed as a whole, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the higher ed establishment has hoisted its collective finger to Virginia’s students and taxpayers.

I have warned that continued aggressive hikes in tuition, fees and other expenses eventually would backfire on institutions with less illustrious reputations. I highlighted the risk that enrollments would decline, cutting sharply into revenues. So far, that hasn’t happened. Yes, I’ll confess… my fears have proven groundless. So far.

What’s happening? Enrollments are declining at many smaller, less prestigious private institutions. Private colleges lacking big endowments to fund hefty scholarships are more expensive to attend than public peers receiving state support, and they are losing students As long as the small, liberal arts colleges continue to bleed students, the publics may be able to pick up the refugees and continue jacking up tuition without repercussions. We’ll watch the numbers and see how they play out.

In the meantime, parents of college-bound kids should expect no easing up on the increase in tuition and fees at Virginia publics. There is no indication — none at all — that they are satiated.  All colleges and universities have ambitious plans to advance their institutional glory. No amount of revenue is ever enough. They will continue raising tuition and fees as long as the market will bear it and taxpayers remain quiescent.