An enduring debate in higher education, especially here in Virginia, is the extent to which cuts in state support are responsible for skyrocketing tuition & fees at public universities. In his book, “The Impoverishment of the American College Student,” James V. Koch has tackled that question on a national basis, and in so doing has provided some interesting data on five Virginia universities.
For 20 flagship institutions, 20 urban institutions, and 20 “typical” institutions, Koch performed a series of calculations tracking changes between the 1999/00 school year and the 2014/15 school year:
- The percent change in published tuition and fees (T&F) adjusted for inflation.
- The percentage change in published net T&F — adjusted for inflation and financial aid — per full-time equivalent student.
- The percentage change in state appropriations, adjusted for inflation, per full-time equivalent student.
- The net change in revenue available to the institution resulting from changes in tuition, fees, financial aid, and state support.
The results for the five +Virginia institutions among the 60 analyzed can be seen in the fourth column in the chart above. One university, Old Dominion, came out slightly behind — by $82. VCU increased T&F somewhat more than needed to offset the decline in state support, while GMU, Radford, and UVa increased T&F far more than required. UVa came out more than $3,600 ahead.
One might get slightly different results if one picked different start and end dates for the data, but Koch’s use of a 15-year time span tends to even out the effect of fluctuating state support. The indisputable bottom line is that four of the five universities analyzed jacked up inflation- and aid-adjusted tuition & fees more than needed to offset declining state support. Those universities, it can be assumed, applied those funds to institutional development and growth.
While initiatives dedicated to growth and development undoubtedly have some value, they impose a significant cost on the students and families paying the tuition and fees, many of whom incur tens of thousands of dollars in debt before graduating — assuming they graduate.
Every public Virginia institution should conduct this kind of analysis, and every board of visitors should take these numbers into account when contemplating the merits of new and expanded initiatives, and the tuition increases needed to fund them.There are currently no comments highlighted.