by James A. Bacon

Brace yourselves for another blast of UVA-centric articles, Baconoids and Baconauts. The University of Virginia Board of Visitors meets this week, and I’ll be covering the deliberations. If you’re not interested in all things Wahoo, this might be a good time to take a vacation. On the other hand, if you regard UVA as a stand-in for all that is good and all that is profane about higher-ed generally, there might be some interesting developments.

Among the topics scheduled for discussion is the 2024-25 budget. According to documents posted on the Board of Visitors website, the administration has submitted proposed revenues and spending for the $5.8 billion budget. Given the Board’s long and illustrious tradition of applying the rubber stamp, the proposed budget is likely to be the budget.

Bottom line: while inflation is chugging along at a 3.4% rate and expected to decline in the year ahead, spending at UVA’s academic division (excluding the health system and campus at Wise), will increase 6.7%. The biggest source of revenue — net tuition and fees — will increase 4.9%.

The usual bogeyman blamed for tuition hikes is the shortfall of tuition and fees compared to the good ol’ days of state largesse. That won’t fly next year. State appropriations are budgeted to increase 11.6%.

The cost drivers are:

Faculty and staff salaries — +5.4%
Internal recoveries — +9.7% (Internal recoveries are defined as recovering of expenses already paid and then shared/reallocated between departments. This is a big number. It could bear explaining.)
Non-personnel expenses — +7.5%
Financial aid — +5.2%
Debt service, transfers, others — NMF 

What kind of growth are we seeing on the revenue side?

Net tuition & fees — +4.9%
State appropriations — +11.6
Externally sponsored research — +7.3%
Endowment distribution — +7.5%
Expendable gifts — +3.7%
Sales, services, interest — +4.8% 

The Board approved the increase in tuition & fees back in December.

Some of these numbers need context to evaluate. For example, salaries are the biggest cost component of any university. What does it mean when that line item increases 5.4%? Is compensation running way ahead of 3.4% inflation, is UVA adding employees, or is some combination of the two at work? Without the employee headcount, which UVA does not provide in its presentation materials, it’s difficult to know what to make of the increased spending on salaries.

As a general rule, the UVA administration supplies the numbers that make the administration look good and withholds the numbers that make them look bad. (Nothing unique to UVA; this is a universal bureaucratic phenomenon.) Will UVA’s BOV members take the trouble to understand the budget and ask tough questions?

The Board agenda has allocated 1.5 hours to the presentation and discussion of the budget, which includes not only the academic-division budget but the health-system budget, the Wise-campus budget, the capital-spending budget, a close-up look at the Strategic Investment Fund, and an update on Huron Consulting’s Efficiency and Effectiveness study.

I’m not optimistic. The Board’s job is to listen to the administration’s presentations and not to rock the boat in pursuit of “personal agendas.”

In addition to being publisher of Bacon’s Rebellion,James A. Bacon is contributing editor of The Jefferson Council.

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12 responses to “Up, Up, and Away”

  1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “Brace yourselves for another blast of UVA-centric articles, Baconoids and Baconauts.”

    Groundwork for July must be laid after all…

  2. LesGabriel Avatar

    Assuming that the total budget to be discussed and analyzed is well in excess of $6 billion, the BOV will be making decisions at a rate of more than $4 billion per hour. Not quite the rate of our representatives in D.C., but quite a bit more than those in Richmond.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      probably do a better job than either of the others, too.

  3. StarboardLift Avatar
    Here's another data point conveniently omitted: the U offered admission to more out-of-state students 5530 than in-state 4280, chasing those bigger tuition checks. While the Commonwealth foots the 11.6% increase to get UVA to stop moaning, Susan Harris makes >$250,000 per year. Aaarrgh shouldn't work on 2 things at once, wrong place for this our students make up no more than 25% of the body this past year.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I don't know where you got your numbers about the make-up of the student body, but according to SCHEV data, over the last four years, the percentage of in-state students in the incoming freshman class at UVa. ranged from 62.2% to 68.6%.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        If not mistaken, Out-of-State students are limited to 33% by law. I think that is applied to the whole of the undergraduates so any given freshman class could be over or under that mark to maximize income. Last time I looked, UVa and CNU are the undisputed champions at making that number work thereby maximizing dollars.

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    And the fops and dandies on the Board of Visitors will rubber stamp the budget lest prolonged debate cut into their bourbon and branch water party after the meeting somewhere on "the grounds".

    After all, any group of people who can afford to stroke checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars for various politicians has no concerns about affordability.

    All the more reason Youngkin should appoint some legitimately middle class people to the BoV.

    Let Jim Ryan and his gaggle of spendthrifts face down a BoV member who is a plumber or high school teacher with a kid at UVa while claiming that "everything is fine". They will wish for the days when Bert Ellis was their biggest problem.

    1. Turbocohen Avatar


  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Of course, that is not enough time to discuss the budget, although I expect that individual board members could have gotten briefings from the staff beforehand. The best, and most transparent, way of handling this would have been to hold a work session for the board a week or so before the official meeting. At tht meeting, there would have been time to go into the budget in depth and answer member questions. That is the way that the many, if not all, local governments consider their budgets. Of course, the administration does not want to have to go into that sort of detail for the membrs. Maybe the members don't want it either.

    1. BoV work sessions. What a great idea. Maybe UVA should consider it.

  6. Turbocohen Avatar

    Where is the row for elimination of DEI expenses?

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    So what about this:

    " The University of Virginia is expanding its financial aid program to cover all tuition and fees for families who make $100,000 or less in an effort to increase access to the state’s flagship university and account for inflation.

    Under the current AccessUVA aid program, in-state students from families who make $80,000 or less are eligible for grants and scholarships that cover the cost of all tuition and fees. A plan approved by the university’s board of visitors on Friday expands access to any in-state family with an income of $100,000 or less. Families with an income of $50,000 or less will receive financial aid covering tuition, fees, housing and dining. "

    So… the UVA "watchers" are concerned about the "budget"?

    So whose paying, those who are rich or out of state?

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