The War on the Middle Class: Virginia Tech Edition

Virginia Tech has joined the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and other universities in giving the ol’ raspberry to Governor Bob McDonnell’s request to hold down tuition increases to the rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Virginia undergraduates will pay 4.9% more in tuition next school year, while out-of-staters will pay 5.0% more. The inflation rate is running around 2% annually.

A special “funds for the future” program will defray some of the increase for lower-income students, reports the Roanoke Times. But if a household with two working parents is making $100,000 or more, the family is out of luck.

Much of the Board of Visitor’s discussion revolved around whether the university has the pricing power to stick it more aggressively to out-of-state students. Suzanne Obenshain, wife of Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, argued that the board should ease up on rate increases for in-state students and shift more of the cost to out-of-staters. Tech officials argued that out-of-state enrollment dropped when significant tuition increases were instituted.

Tech enrolls about 6,400 out-of-state students a year. Under Sunday’s increases,  out-of-state students will pay about 156 percent of what it costs to educate them, in effect subsidizing in-state students, reports the Roanoke Times. Resident students pay 61 percent of the cost of their education. In a “compromise,” Tech officials agreed to bump up the out-of-state increase from 4.9% to 5.0%.

The board also discussed “differential pricing” — charging more for degrees like engineering and architecture that require more expensive infrastructure, more expensive faculty and/or lead to more remunerative careers. Vice Rector George Nolen, a retired Siemens Corp. executive, contended that a Tech degree in engineering is under-priced from a market standpoint. Engineering students can afford to take out bigger loans because they’ll have higher-paying jobs when they graduate.

Judging from the Roanoke Times, one topic not up for discussion was how to hold down costs. The entire debate revolved around how to squeeze more blood from a turnip. Under today’s higher-ed mantra, the poor get financial aid, the rich don’t need it, and the middle-class just has to bend over and take it.


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13 responses to “The War on the Middle Class: Virginia Tech Edition”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    “Under today’s higher-ed mantra, the poor get financial aid, the rich don’t need it, and the middle-class just has to bend over and take it.”.

    You got it.

    Who speaks for the middle class when it comes to tuition hikes at public universities?

    Alumni Associations care only about rankings – US News & World Report, NCAA, etc. They could care less about affordability.

    BoVs – A motley collection of billionaire hedge fund managers, political contributors, people who inherited their Daddy’s construction business, etc.

    The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond – The Democrats dare not criticize the bastions of liberalism known as universities. So, the Creigh Deeds, Chap Petersens, Donald Mceachins and Janet Howells complain mightily about rising health care costs threatening the middle class but go mute when it comes to fast escalating public university costs. All of which leaves the Republicans. They have no reason to lick the boots of professors or university administrators. Just the opposite. But they sit in stone silence.

    The Republicans of the Imperial Clown show in Richmond should make tuition control a litmus test for confirmation of all recommended members of public university Board of Visitor nominees. If a nominee won’t swear fealty to holding down tuition rates then that nominee doesn’t get appointed.

    That’s what is supposed to happen. The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond is supposed to exert its control over the state’s assets.

    But the Republicans do nothing. Why?

    Where is Cuccinelli on this? Out to lunch, as usual?

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Apparently it’s far easier to raise prices on those without a lobby, than it is to lower costs at the expense of vested interests.

      So administrators and Boards take the easy way out. Given results, why step out of line in the footsteps of Dragas? So we’re back to business as usual.

  2. re: ” But the Republicans do nothing. Why?”

    oh my… talk about a FATBALL!

    how about a short list of the GOP’s major accomplishments recently?

    batter up…….

    bonus question: since when is there an expectation that they GOP should look out for the Middle Class? Boy did someone take a wrong turn on that !!!!

  3. this is not very complicated in my view. They’re charging – what the market will bear.

    anything about “helping” the Middle Class is pure cynicism…”feel good pablum” for the gullible…

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      This is cynical – particularly as regards a public institution.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Yes – public institutions. What would the Democrats say if the level of police protection varied in direct proportion to the amount that homeowners pay to the Police Benevolent Association? What would Democrats say if convicted felons were charged for their room and board and people with money got hotel-like accommodations?

        The Democrats will never take on the sacred cow of academia. Never.

        When given a choice between supporting the middle class and pandering to academics the Democrats will pander every time.

        1. the Democrats? hahahahbhahahahahahaha

          what about the GOP?

          and it’s WRONG to directly help kids who get good grades?


          okay… tell me what should be done by the Dems.

          now tell me what should be done by the GOP.

          come on… fess up … are the two the same or are they different?

  4. cynical or realistic? 😉

    besides, we have all this talk about how much higher ed costs Va taxpayers.

    don’t we want VaTech to charge enough so we don’t have to subsidize them?

    why not limit the subsidy to ONLY students and ONLY for students that will pay a 50-50 match for the public funds?

    and let the Universities charge what they have to charge to not run at a loss that requires a subsidy?

    We keep talking about how wasteful govt is. Is this is not a good example, what is?

    I’d say we need a paradigm shift.. let’s reward students who get good grades by offering the student, not the college, a match grant.

    if you got straights A’s they qualify for an 80-20 match. If they got B’s, a 70-30 match and once in college, if they get A’s they continue the 80-20 match.

    we need to get the money away from the big institutions and directly “help” those who are willing to 1. get good grades 2. – work to make the money to pay for their “match”.

    As more than a few have been saying here in a wide variety of blogs – we “incentivize” the wrong thing. Why not incentivize the right things?

  5. Darrell Avatar

    Why not incentivize the right things?

    What do you think moving to a third world country is all about? America is for workers. If you can’t afford the fee then you have to flee. Our kids head to Canada, Texas, anywhere but here.

  6. Breckinridge Avatar

    I am more than tangentially involved in this, but the real power to do anything is divided between the General Assembly and the individual Boards of Visitors. And the General Assembly has been granting the schools more and more autonomy, again responding to a promise of efficiency that so far is not being realized. As I’ve noted before, the 2012 and 2013 sessions followed the lead of Governor McDonnell and increased public support noticably, only to see the boards pump up prices anyway.

    The public universities all have major lobbying efforts, using private law firms and their own paid staff lobbyists. The university presidents spend more time at the GAB than any other group of stakeholders, bar none.

    The taxpayers of Virginia have created fantastic assets in UVA, William and Mary and Tech and many of the other schools are very strong. But those three are the magnets for out of state students paying near-private school tuition levels, and they have milked the opportunity. There are layers upon layers of unnecessary administration, scores upon scores of well paid people who never see the inside of a classroom, and a capital building boom underway that will add onto student costs for 20 years. And I’m not even talking sports yet (although I’m assured UVA sports don’t slop from the public or student trough.)

    The bottom line is they can. The price inflation is propped up by grants and federal money and subsidized loans. The customers have not yet figured out that a JMU or ODU degree today is probably a better economic asset than a UVA degree was 20 years ago. Too few customers have figured out that doing the first two years at a community college leads to a transfer to one of the 4-year institutions and saves a bundle.

    This is badly broken.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      Your comment is fabulous? Absolutely fabulous. We’ve got to keep it alive. And get it working hard to help solve this thing.

    2. The community college system in Va, as far as I am concerned is head and shoulders above the 4-year institutions in terms of form, function, access to students and financial affordability.

      they provide not only a path to a 4 yr degree but many occupational certifications to jobs that really do exist.

      in my view, the community colleges are worth every penny.

  7. I’m serious about my suggestions. I don’t think giving state money to the Universities in return for promises is anything but foolish.

    And I seriously don’t see what is wrong with offering kids state scholarships for good grades – totally independent of their parents financial situation.

    Some states guarantee their high school kids – a college education if they get good grades in high school.

    why is that discriminatory against any particular demographic?

    why not give hope and opportunity to any kid no matter the financial status of their parent?

    Give them a guaranteed slot at a community college and if they do good there, let them get a guaranteed transfer.

    you want to fix the public K-12 and higher Ed system – empower students – not institutions. Make it clear that those who perform – can attain opportunity and they don’t have to have a well-off dad/mom to do it.

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