Taylor Reveley: W&M’s Campus Radical

by James A. Bacon

Taylor Reveley, the president of the College of William & Mary, has been pushing some unsettling ideas for re-defining the university’s relationship to the commonwealth of Virginia.

State funding, which constituted 43% of the institution’s operating budget 30 years ago, now provides only 13%. The university has responded by jacking up charges for tuition, fees, room and board, which now stands at $44,854 for out-of-state students and $22,024 for in-state. The state should allow W&M to raise its in-state charges to market rates, Reveley proposes. That would mean doubling them to where out-of-state charges are now, according to this month’s Virginia Business magazine.

The university then would use a portion of the proceeds generated by families who can afford to pay full price to provide financial assistance to lower-income and middle-income families. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.

It is ironic that this plan for redistributing the wealth would come from Reveley. The patrician, silver-haired, former law school dean is not anybody’s idea of a campus radical. He was appointed president in 2008 in place of left-leaning Gene R. Nichol, whose decisions on culture-war issues had plunged the campus into controversy.

The beauty of the plan, according to Reveley, is that it would not compromise affordability. “If Virginia is to sustain its system of public education, it must be creative about how to do it. I’m just deeply concerned that the money [from the state] isn’t going to be there. We’ve got to pursue other means of sustaining ourselves.”

Reveley’s plan would allow the university to grow undergraduate enrollment, a core goal of the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act, which calls for creating 6,000 new slots statewide for in-state students. The W&M president also calls for developing new revenue streams by means of research grants, entrepreneurial activities more aggressive fund-raising, and he recommends productivity-enhancing changes such as embracing long-distance learning and year-round use of the facilities.

The Virginia Business article, though one of the best pieces I have read about higher ed in Virginia recently, did omit one important perspective: One reason that state support has declined so dramatically is that W&M, along with the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, agreed to second-class funding status in exchange for greater freedom from state bureaucratic control. The hope was that granting more autonomy to the three universities with the largest endowments would allow them to save considerable expense and give them more latitude in undertaking new initiatives.

If Reveley gets his way, William & Mary would take another big step toward independence, becoming more like private, non-profit colleges that charge exorbitant fees and rebate part of them back to lower- and middle-income parents.

I’m ambivalent. On the one hand, I’ve got problems with enacting another wealth-distribution scheme in order to expand capacity and admit more students who very likely will derive little benefit from attending college. On the other hand, I agree with fellow-blogger Groveton that it may make good sense for W&M, UVa and Tech to go private and become totally self supporting. That would free resources for the commonwealth to plow into George Mason University, Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University with the goal of building prestigious institutions in the state’s three main population centers that can ignite economic development.

Reluctantly, I conclude that Reveley’s proposal is a step in the right direction. We should be explicit, though, that the ultimate goal is to take W&M private.

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11 responses to “Taylor Reveley: W&M’s Campus Radical”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Speaking as a taxpayer and a UVA parent, I have grave suspicions about simply “privatizing” first class institutions like Virginia, Tech and W&M. What’s so wrong with public education? How are the state’s taxpayers going to be reimbursed for all those decades or centuries they have supported the schools? I realize that all conservatives get all creamy when you say “privatize” but where’s the payback to the taxpayers who build up these schools? Something stinks here.

  2. Taylor Raveley?

    Spare me, Jim.

    That’s W. Taylor Raveley III.

    Look up “What’s wrong with Virginia” and this guy’s picture is next to the article.

    Yeah, this unelected jack-wagon is going to decide tax policy by manipulating tuition rates. Is there no end to the egos of the fools who run our colleges and universities?

    Maybe ask this cackling magpie why college tuitions are flying through the ceiling?

    You want to solve our higher education problem?

    1. Send all the Thurston Howell III’s who mismanage our public universities back to the Country Club of Virginia where they can sit on the asses and do no harm.

    2. Drive up to Fort AP Hill and find a master sergeant. In fact, find three. Take one each to Charlottesville, Williamsburg and Blacksburg. Tell them that their job is to educate twice as many students for the same money that is being spent today.

    Then, take all the single barreled dumb asses with the double barreled names and throw them in the ocean.

  3. “What’s so wrong with public education?”.

    What’s wrong is that the Clown Show refuses to put the doofi who are running tuitions up to the heavens under any form of public control.

    I’d love to see public education. Like maybe with publicly elected university presidents.

    Virginia’s politicians are worthless cowards who refuse to take any competent actions required to make the state’s universities actually educate the state’s students.

    From Jim’s article …

    “One reason that state support has declined so dramatically is that W&M, along with the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, agreed to second-class funding status in exchange for greater freedom from state bureaucratic control.”.

    Translation … our state politicians are not only clowns but coward-clowns.

    God our General Assembly SUCKS OUT LOUD.

    I mean … why should the state universities be forced to operate under the control of the elected state government?

    Trust me on this one … within 20 years Virginia will be among the poorest, worst off, least respected states in the country.

  4. you want to get tuition costs under control? It’s easy. Get rid of govt subsidized college loans and see what happens.

  5. “you want to get tuition costs under control? It’s easy. Get rid of govt subsidized college loans and see what happens.”.

    So, the scumballs running the colleges and universities over-charge because the government will subsidize a loan?

    How would people feel if the makers of M-16s vastly over-charged the Army for those weapons because “the government is paying”.

    Sounds to me like it’s time to see some college presidents doing the perp walk.

    Occupy Wall Street? The whole thing should be about college tuitions. And their anger should be vented directly at the crooks who run America’s colleges and universities.

  6. re: subsidized loans and …..

    I think it’s the same deal with colleges as it was with the housing meltdown.

    when the govt subsidizes / incentivizes housing and college loans – it not only energizes the market – it allows premium pricing of the products – housing and education for two.. and health care for three.

  7. What is it that WM does that makes it a value to Virginia and the nation? As far as I can see, it’s some over-hyped college in some do nothing town. Where’s the beef, and the cash in a WM education that would justify a lifetime of debt slavery?

    1. The ROI for W&M is easy. Check business week. It’s $983,500 over 30 years making it a 13.6 percent annualized return. Good luck finding a better return in the stock market. It’s an even higher ROI if you study business or science over music theory.


  8. EagletoTiger Avatar

    Darrell, You can basically ask that about any college. The fact of the matter is that colleges are only as good as people perceive them to be, and William and Mary is perceived to be one of the best Universities in The United States. Now as to whether or not its good enough to charge this astronomical price in tuition, it all depends on how respected a degree from William and Mary is and in my opinion its highly respected among employers, but I do agree it is not respected enough to charge more than $22,000 for Virginians.

  9. I really do think the colleges have bumped up their prices because they know the kids will get loans.

    but what I do not understand for the life of me is why someone would go to a high-dollar school when there are much more reasonable alternatives (yes) … but ESPECIALLY so if you’re going to go into hock for thousands of dollars before you earn the first one… and even more especially so if you’re going to rack up thousands of dollars in debt for a degree of which has little or no or dubious marketability in the current job market.

    Used to be..in the day.. that you worked at a part-time job… worked over the summer… scrimped …. did without a car..get a scholarship… get an internship, etc, etc.. whatever worked til you got your degree.

    now… everything has to be gold-plated apparently.. including the brand name of the school.

    as a society, we have taken stupid pills with regard to higher education.

    We want to blame the universities..but folks.. we are the problem…aided and abetted, encouraged by govt subsidized financing…

    no wonder we are such losers these days…. I still can’t get over it.. why in the world would someone go into debt for thousands of dollars when you could get the job done much, much cheaper?

  10. “The fact of the matter is that colleges are only as good as people perceive them to be, and William and Mary is perceived to be one of the best Universities in The United States. ”

    Yeah well the only good I ever saw from WM was watching a Badfinger and Doors concert while latching on to free love and money Come And Get It WM girls. The rest of 1972 was spent taking in the sights and sounds of SE Asia. That was an education of value. 😉

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