UVa as “Unfinished Project”


Jim Ryan, the new president of the University of Virginia, made quite the splash in his inaugural address last week: He promised to make attendance at the elite institution tuition-free for students from families earning less than $80,000 a year, and to provide free tuition, room and board for student from families earning less than $30,000 a year.

“Here is what I see when I look ahead over the next decade or so,” Ryan said, as reported by the Daily Progress. “I see a community that opens wide the door to opportunity for first-generation, low- and middle-income students … There is more work to be done in this space, but we might as well get started.”

UVa’s financial assistance program already provides significant aid to lower-income UVa students. According to the Daily Progress, “UVa promises to meet a student’s demonstrated financial need through scholarships, loans and grants, but in-state students may need to take out up to $4,500 in loans per year.” What Ryan’s promise means for UVa finances and its progressive tuition/financial aid model, however, were not clear either from his speech or the Daily Progress article. 

The promise of increased financial aid was but a small part of his address, which explored the theme of the University as an “unfinished project.” In describing what he sees for UVa over the next decade or so, he said:

I see a community, first and foremost, that rests on an exceptionally strong moral foundation. A university that lives its values; that embraces honor and acts honorably; that studies sustainability and practices it; that promotes justice and is just; that endorses free speech and academic freedom and protects them robustly. My friend Drew Faust, from whom you just heard, often said that universities should try to be not just great, but good. I agree and would take it one step further:  I believe that in the future, it will not be possible for a university to be great unless it is also good.

With his emphasis on environmental sustainability (I doubt he’s referring to fiscal sustainability) and justice (presumably of the social justice variety), Ryan reveals himself as a standard-issue liberal-progressive. Conspicuously absent from his speech was any mention of embracing wealth creation or cultivating personal virtue — foundations without which no society can either afford environmental sustainability or enjoy social justice. It is reassuring to hear, at least, that he remains committed to the antiquated virtue of honor and that he will “robustly” protect free speech and academic freedom.

“I see a community that is as vibrant as it is diverse, a community bound by shared values of … honor and integrity, openness and civility, intellectual rigor and human compassion,” said Ryan.

That sounds like a back-handed endorsement of intellectual diversity. So, that’s something.

There’s one other thing we didn’t hear in his speech. We heard about expanding financial aid, but not where the money would come from. We heard nothing about curtailing costs, asking tenured faculty to teach more, making R&D pay its own way, or reducing administrative overhead. When it comes to the business of running the university, Ryan appears to be a status quo president.

As a humble alumnus, my vision for UVa is to create an institution that is more affordable for everyone by keeping a lid on costs rather than an institution that makes attendance affordable for some by raising tuition for others. It’s also crucial, I believe, for even the lowest-income students to bear a portion of the cost of attendance. Everyone needs to have “skin in the game,” or attendance becomes just another entitlement. Finally, if UVa wants to maintain its intellectual vitality, it cannot become an academic mono-culture. It appears that Ryan doesn’t want that to happen, but he will face intense pressure to impose  conformity. Actions speak louder than words. We will watch what he does.

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31 responses to “UVa as “Unfinished Project”

  1. The University of Virginia has no business levying a tax on any Virginian for any reason. While such a tax may be warranted it is the province of the elected General Assembly to levy such taxes not the appointed bureaucrats of a public university.

    Consider a hypothetical similar path. The head of the Virginia Department of Transportation decides that income and wealth are unfairly distributed in Virginia. he further decides that helping Virginia’s less affluent citizens afford a car is in interests of the Commonwealth. So, he arbitrarily raises the registration fee on new expensive cars and uses the additional income to lower the registration fees on older less expensive cars. There is no basis in cost for this policy. It costs no more to register a newer more expensive car than an older less expensive car. It is a tax, plain and simple. Moreover, it is a tax that has never been directly approved by any elected officials in Virginia. It is simply some bureaucrat’s belief in what ought to be done.

    Shouldn’t Virginians insist that our elected officials be on the record regarding any and all taxes? Shouldn’t our elected officials insist that that the state not implement any new taxes or tax changes without a vote of the General Assembly?

    Beyond that, there are multiple other issues with Ryan’s feel good approach:

    1. Why shouldn’t students at UVA be asked to take student loans? It’s the students who are attending UVA, will graduate from UVA and will end up paying the bills. If you’re a UVA graduate you should be able to pay back some reasonable student loans. Why should money be taken out of the pockets of middle class Virginians so that a Computer Science major from a working class family doesn’t owe any money. The CS major will be far better positioned to pay that money than the middle class Virginians funding it.

    2. Costs of living vary greatly across Virginia. Why should one statewide salary be used to determine need? Families making $80,000 in many parts of rural Virginia are in far less need than a family making $80,000 in Arlington County.

  2. No one ever wants to say where the money goes or comes from in higher education in the U.S. (I’ve always thought it shares many characteristics with healthcare, the other runaway cost sector in the U.S.) The bulk of the undergraduate financial grant aid (above federal Pell Grants), usually comes from charging wealthier students and their families more and redistributing it. (You did some posts on “cost of attendance”, but that itself is a bloated number if you are trying to look at just cost of education as we might define it.) Graduates in arts and sciences are also subsidized by undergraduates.

    We do know from National Science Foundation reports that about 30% of R&D funding comes from Institutional sources. UVA did a bit better than average and was at 24% of total in the most recent figures, but that is still $95M a year coming from Institutional funds. That makes the institutional contribution, about as large as UVA’s athletic department budget. We’ll likely never really get a breakdown of where the $95M comes from, but sources like endowment allocated to research, gifts, and patent income likely don’t cover it. Some universities like MIT can cover all through other funds and don’t take less favorable financial projects, but they are in the minority.

    To be fair, UVA probably puts less of the burden of research on students than other universities. I think this is something that should be known, just like we know about athletic fees. Given the federal government and taxpayers are on the hook for student defaults, I don’t think this is too much to ask.

  3. I suspect the Jim Bacons and DJ’s and Izzos of the world don’t ascribe to means-testing for College but it’s become fairly standard for other things housing, MedicAid, Tanf, food stamps, etc.

    The two great criteria for a good life in today’s world is 1. health care and 2. sufficient education to get a job that provides self-sufficiency and ideally – enough to also be a taxpayer.

    But what Mr. Ryan is saying is very similar to a lot of College Presidents today are saying and that is that their institutions need to reflect society’s demographics and not end up lopsided in favor of segments of society.

    Sounds “socialist” doesn’t it?

    • Larry, you’ve never shown any understanding of my points or what I might advocate. To compound it, you then almost always misrepresent it using various devices like red herrings. I suggest again that you stick more closely to the facts and arguments presented.

      • Izzo – there are lots of opinions about the various sundry costs and cost structure college. It really does not lead to any greater understanding just various flavor of angst so I really don’t find it useful to plow the individual complaints along these lines.

        I DO THINK that a COMMON thread is how folks feel about different prices for different folks… and that is also a fairly common thread for healthcare.

        My point basically just ignores the various individual complaints about the financial structures of higher ed… however, you DID say this: ” The bulk of the undergraduate financial grant aid (above federal Pell Grants), usually comes from charging wealthier students and their families more and redistributing it.” and that is what I was responding to with the “means testing” comment.

        The colleges these days – aside from all the various revenue streams they have and won’t talk much about – is a system that tries to allow folks of all income groups – representative of society – to be able to attend.

        And Yep… they charge different rates according to ability to pay -which is very similar to the way that ObamaCare and Medicaid and even Medicare “works”.

        I KNOW this is not your focus.. but it is my comment. And I’ll allow you to comment any way you wish and expect to myself. As I’ve told others – if you don’t agree – don’t tell me to change..just move your cursor to the next item you do want to agree with.

        • But LarrytheG you’re citing systems that, love them or hate them, have been given the authority to tax and redistribute. We haven’t given our Virginia public higher ed institution administrators (President Ryan) that authority.

          • @LIFT – well they’re not really taxes……. they’re fees and they can charge fees, right?

        • Larry, what I object to, which should be obvious, is this: “I suspect the Jim Bacons and DJ’s and Izzos of the world don’t ascribe to means-testing for College but it’s become fairly standard for other things housing, MedicAid, Tanf, food stamps, etc.”

          Do you really think we don’t know about means testing? Was that really the crux of what we are getting at?

          DJ can represent what he wrote if necessary, but my reading is he believes any “means testing” redistribution on financial aid should be done through enacted legislation and regulations and not through the unelected university bureaucracy. Your comment distorts that.

          You are welcome to your own opinions, just don’t misrepresent the opinions of others.

          • @Izzo – this is what you wrote: ” The bulk of the undergraduate financial grant aid (above federal Pell Grants), usually comes from charging wealthier students and their families more and redistributing it. ” that I then said ” I suspect the Jim Bacons and DJ’s and Izzos of the world don’t ascribe to means-testing for College …”

            If I got that wrong – my apologies.

            ” DJ can represent what he wrote if necessary, but my reading is he believes any “means testing” redistribution on financial aid should be done through enacted legislation and regulations and not through the unelected university bureaucracy. Your comment distorts that.”

            how does saying that some do not ascribe to means-testing distort ?

            I thought that I accurately describe that sentiment, no? I was commenting on the SENTIMENT – not what should or should not be done about it.

            Did I misrepresent how you feel about means-testing (or DJ?) ?

            so… I’m not seeing the issue… Are you objecting because I commented at all?

            how did I distort?

          • Larry,

            What you wrote is simply a non sequitur. Jim wrote that it is unclear where additional financial grant aid is coming from based on President Ryan’s comments. I wrote that the likely source, based on available information, is redistribution of tuition revenues from the wealthier students to poorer students. You then wrote people like me don’t subscribe to means testing, which is a different topic and one I hadn’t directly addressed.

            DJ did touch on redistribution with an argument that it should not be done by unelected bureaucrats. Note that this viewpoint is a specific case and does not mean he is necessarily against all forms of means testing (e.g. for Pell Grants which is a federal government program based on enacted legislation and budgets).

            @Izzo – this is what you wrote: ” The bulk of the undergraduate financial grant aid (above federal Pell Grants), usually comes from charging wealthier students and their families more and redistributing it. ” that I then said ” I suspect the Jim Bacons and DJ’s and Izzos of the world don’t ascribe to means-testing for College …”

    • First point –

      Medicaid, TANF and food stamps are directly legislated by elected politicians. They are not subject to the whims of the bureaucrats appointed to run those programs. If I don’t like the programs I can vote against the politicians who implemented those programs.

      Second point –

      I get “means tested” every payday. That means test decides what percentage of the money I have earned I can keep. If I were of lesser means I’d get to keep a higher percentage of my earnings.

  4. So, President Ryan, where will the middle-class students find an affordable education?

    • As the famous Austrian turned French said “Let them eat cake.”

      Or as the S$%* Newspaper Across the Potomac seems to say all the time “Shut the f(@# up and pay higher taxes.”

      It’s why Donald Trump was elected, America’s institutions don’t work for ordinary Americans anymore.

      • “let them eat cake” was the Royalty telling the masses… right?

        but the comment: ” America’s institutions don’t work for ordinary Americans anymore” is dead on the issue… except that even those who say this – don’t want their Govt-subsidized, Medicare and Employer-provided insurance messed with. They want their subsidized stuff and they oppose subsidies for others and Mr. Trump is more than willing to politicize it to his advantage and not actually deal with the issue of fairness and equity. My view of course.

    • Oh there are LOTS of options for the Middle Class !!! They never had it so good BUT they are no longer the “sweet spot” of the institutions who now believe they must enroll on a percentage basis – the same percentage of demographics and that means they are prioritizing the low income – first generation college folks…

      Of course,some believe that Trump will “fix” this but until I actually see him make this case in front of his rally’s, I’m thinking it’s wishful thinking!

  5. On the means testing without legislation. Let me point out a couple of examples that I do not think are legislated:

    ” Get To Know Internet Essentials from Comcast
    Internet Essentials from Comcast has three key components. It includes low-cost high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month, the option to purchase a computer for less than $150 and multiple options for digital literacy training in print, online and in-person to the following groups:
    Families with at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
    Individuals and families receiving HUD housing assistance.
    Low-income veterans who live in our service area.
    Senior citizens in select markets.”

    Here is Dominion’s low-income program:

    https://www.dominionenergy.com/community/energy-assistance

    If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty paying the electric bill, please call us at 866-366-4357. Calling us early may provide more options to help prevent the service from being turned off. You may be eligible for payment arrangements or energy assistance funds. Doing so typically provides more options and may help prevent your electricity from being turned off.

    Energy assistance is not limited to low income customers, but anyone facing hardship. See below for information on programs offered through the State and by Dominion Energy.

    Who to Contact for Resources: 2-1-1 Virginia
    If you’re past due on your energy bill or facing disconnection of your electric service, dial 2-1-1 or visit 211virginia.org. Trained professionals can provide referrals to resources for utility assistance, basic human needs, child care, elder care, housing assistance and more. Help is available 24/7.

    Available Programs
    Governmental Assistance: Virginia Department of Social Services
    The Virginia Department of Social Services offers three ways to assist customers with energy bills. For details and to screen for eligibility and/or apply online through CommonHelp, visit Virginia Department of Social Services website.

    Fuel Assistance helps eligible households with the costs of heating their homes.

    Crisis Assistance helps households in heating emergency situations with primary heat security deposits, energy heating bills, repair/replacement of heating equipment, primary heating fuel, or emergency shelter.

    Cooling Assistance helps with cooling equipment repairs or purchases and with payment of the energy bill to operate cooling equipment.

    Dominion Energy: EnergyShare
    EnergyShare is our energy assistance program of last resort available to anyone who faces financial hardship. In addition to providing assistance to low-income and elderly residents, the program is also available to individuals with disabilities and military veterans facing financial challenges.

    EnergyShare also offers free weatherization services and educational outreach to help qualifying customers reduce energy usage and lower their bills by making lasting energy-saving improvements.

    Dominion Energy: Senior Cool Care Program
    For more than 25 years Dominion Energy Virginia has sponsored a cooling assistance program in partnership with the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Senior Cool Care provides a free single-room air conditioner unit to low-income older citizens. For information on how to apply in Virginia, call 1-800-552-3402.”

    there are others..

    • Comcast is not an asset of the state. UVA is. Public entities are supposed to be directed by elected officials. Some administrated tasks are properly done by officials appointed by elected officials. Other actions should be taken only by the elected officials themselves. In particular, taxation is a function of government and those elected officials. The churlish, dizzy-headed minnows appointed to manage public institutions are not the right people to assess taxes on anybody. That must lie strictly with the elected officials who can be thrown far, far out of office if they pick the pockets of the electorate too deeply.

      • Only point out that this practice is nationwide ,it’s not like UVA alone is “violating” the law.

        One would think if it is really “illegal” that at least one State would have made it illegal.. that the Feds would likewise make it a provision in their loans and other funding.

        It’s not – and that’s the point. So there are points of view and there is the reality where as far as I know, not a single state prohibits it.

      • Virginia courts struck down the statute that allowed the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to levy fees that were in fact taxes. Only elected officials can vote to impose taxes. I also believe there is a state law that prohibits state entities, including local governments, from charging more than cost for services.

        I would think that UVA could use endowments, etc. to provide tuition breaks for lower-income students. I would think that raising tuition above cost to subsidize those same students would constitute an illegal tax.

  6. re: ” Jim wrote that it is unclear where additional financial grant aid is coming from based on President Ryan’s comments. I wrote that the likely source, based on available information, is redistribution of tuition revenues from the wealthier students to poorer students. You then wrote people like me don’t subscribe to means testing, which is a different topic and one I hadn’t directly addressed.”

    You are correct. My bad. I just see what the colleges ARE doing is BOTH – means testing their applicants AND redistribution and I was basically saying that you’d not like EITHER but I did conflate a bit.. I just see them both as pews in the same church… rather than unrelated.

    “redistribution” is widespread and nuanced – when WalMart gives to a charity, for instance, they are “redistributing”.

    When Dominion sells you and I peak-power at the same price as non-peak power – others who conserve and use less – pay more in base rates to help spread out the cost of the peak power to some …

    Okay – so my point is that it’s not uncommon and Colleges see it as a normal and acceptable practice – without the need for legislation because even companies like Comcast will provide internet for a lower price if you “qualify”.

    I’m aware that many Conservatives and Libertarians oppose this concept even if it is “means-tested”.

    I realize that you separate them and I see them as similar.

    My apologies if you felt I was distorting … truly did not intend it.

    • Perhaps the DMV should means test you the next time you go in for a license renewal. The supervisor of your local DMV can simply decide how much you should pay to register your car or renew your license based on his or her determination of whether you are wealthy in their opinion. Don’t like it? don’t have a car. After all, driving is a privilege not a right.

      • Don’t give Larry any ideas. There are people who seriously suggest that traffic citations should be means-tested — on the theory that a fixed fine represents a proportionately greater punishment for a poor person than a rich person. It’s only one small step from that to DMV means testing driver’s licenses!

  7. Seems to me that means testing and implicit taxation through tuition and fee revenue redistribution are pretty closely related. Call it what you will, those are alternative names for a subsidy, from those with middle-class incomes to those with less than that, that’s involuntary for anyone that needs this particular government service. I like DJR’s formulation of the problem: taxation and income redistribution ought to be accomplished solely (and transparently) by the elected legislature — not by bureaucrats overcharging one subset of the public in order to undercharge another subset of the public for the same services. Maybe UVa has all the authority it needs under current law to do this; maybe the University also feels compelled to do this because (1) all the higher-ed. competition does likewise, and (2) the State refuses to subsidize tuition progressively so the U. feels it must do so on its own in order to accomplish the generally-agreed policy goal of education-for-all — but neither makes it good government.

  8. Well, Dominon is a regulated monopoly and it too offers subsidized rates for low income folks.

    I realize that some consider it a “tax” but a “tax” in and of itself is NOT income redistribution by virtue of it being a tax except in the minds of those who believe that if every penny is not exactly parceled out equally to all – that it constitutes “redistribution”.

    For instance, you could even make that case for gasoline taxes in the way that funding is allocated or property taxes on all that then is used to build schools only for those currently have school-age kids.

    But as far as I know – not a single state operates that way for Colleges. This is not a unique Virginia “thing” like independent cities – it’s a nationwide thing where virtually every college in the land does this – with the explicit acquiescence and approval of the legislatures.

    This is yet another one of those harder core Conservative and Libertarian concepts that most of society and indeed our elected, Legislatures and Courts do not agree with and have not done as Government itself practices
    re-distribution and universally approves Colleges doing it also.

  9. I agree with Jim Bacon’s characterization of UVA President Ryan’s unilateral waiver of tuition for students from families earning less than $80,000 a year, and of tuition, room and board for student from families earning less than $30,000 a year. I also agree with Rippert’s, Acbar’s, Lift’s and Izzo’s commentary. Those comments are spot on.

    Why President Ryan’s unilateral declaration now? The answer is obvious. On Sept. 24, 2018, General Assembly Speaker Kirk Cox addressed the GO Virginia Foundation Board on the subject of higher education in Virginia, saying:

    “If our colleges and their leaders don’t recognize the shift in public opinion on higher education … if they don’t understand how the populist message is resonating … and if they don’t come to the table seriously on the points of greatest concern — affordability and accountability — then it is very likely that the criticism will reach critical mass, and it will be impossible to maintain the progress we have made. I believe higher education in Virginia is at a pivotal moment. We have never needed our higher ed system more than we do now … because it is the key to the talent pipeline, and the talent pipeline is the key to our future. But, at the same time, higher ed’s political position has never been shakier. At least in my recollection, the bond of trust between the people and our educational institutions — and the trust between our colleges and elected officials—has never been more at risk.”

    UVA President Ryan’s unilateral, vague and troublesome waiver of tuition is clearly an effort to defuse Speaker Kirk Cox’s blunt threat and challenge. As such it is a highly cynical political maneuver to avoid the true accountability that UVA owes to the General Assembly, Virginia’s students, their parents and Virginia’s taxpayers. This includes their unequivocal right to a decent and affordable education, neither of which they are receiving today.

    No, instead, President Ryan’s political maneuver is designed to protect the interests of those who rule UVA, namely its unelected bureaucrats appointed by the Ryan Administration. It is also an exercise of raw political power. A power play that, in and of itself, constitutes a blatant challenge to Virginia’s General Assembly. It’s a blatant show of unilateral force. A public declaration that UVA has now realized its long festering ambition of de facto independence from the state legislature as drippert here has pointed out.

    Take for example, President Sullivan’s declaration that “…in the future, it will not be possible for a university to be great unless it is also good.”

    One is reminded of the ancient transition of the Qin Chinese State (259-210 BC) to the Han Dynasty. The Qin rule was so harsh it provoked uprisings all over China that collapsed the State’s rule in 210 BC. Under Qin all rules yoked and punished the ruled for the exclusive benefit and enjoyment of the Qin rulers. Think Teresa Sullivan.

    Under the Han dynasty the laws relaxed modestly under the old Confucian idea that the ruler ought rule in the interests of the people. Think Ryan. The great problem, however, the problem that continues to this day, is that all that is deemed “good”, all declared moral injunctions, that are fostered by the Chinese and UVA bureaucrats are designed to work exclusively to the benefit of the ruling bureaucrats, keeping them fat and happily in power over their ruled subjects.

  10. As said earlier – it’s not what Ryan alone is doing and targetting him as if he is just is not going to fly. Ryan is carrying a message from UVA – that is the very same message that is coming from a large majority of colleges across the country and that is their efforts to try to reflect in their enrollments what society looks like demographically and to prioritize those who would be
    the first in their families to attend college.

    More than anything else, in my view, education represents the concept of “equal” opportunity. We enshrine this concept in our K-12 where we ALL pay to educate ALL kids regardless of how much their parents can pay or do pay.

    In the 21st century – many of us recognize that – that concept remains more concept than reality – if “education” does not actually result in job opportunity in the economy.

    In other words – we – most of us – DO accept education funded by everyone and “redistributed” to everyone provide some level of “equal opportunity” when folks enter the workforce.

    No -we cannot “save” every kid, much less guarantee every kid is capable of “Higher Ed” but we also know that we cannot have a system where CAPABLE kids are effectively denied access to a good education because they do not have the finances.

    But all of this tiresome rancid dialogue aimed at people and institutions from too many these days is not about making things better, but rather just destructive and counterproductive – IMHO.

    I do not think Speaker Cox represents the vanguard of the boo-birds… he’s just talking … in fairly vague political terms such that each listener can interpret for themselves what they THINK he is saying. Very effective and works quite well for the more practiced politicians!

    When someone can show that Ryan himself is “re-inventing” how Colleges and redistribution “works” – I might put more stock in those words!

    And I’ll finish by saying this. We live in a voting Democracy and if and when enough people reject the idea espoused by Ryan then I’m all in, I believe in the right of folks to vote even if I end up in the minority!

    • Larry – we don’t live in a democracy. We live in a constitutional republic where we elect representatives to legislative bodies. They are empowered to vote on legislation, including tax legislation, within limits set in the Constitution. Creatures of the state, such as cities, counties, agencies (e.g., VDOT) and universities have what power is given them by the legislature. Nothing below a state is a sovereign entity.

      Actions outside the scope of delegated authority are ultra vires – beyond their power. A university president cannot decide to implement a plan that charges some students more than the cost of education to subsidize other students. That is a tax and university presidents do not have the authority to tax. They don’t get to try it unless and until the voters or the legislature stops them.

      As I posted earlier, I do think that, all other things being equal, the university president could use endowments, etc. (not tuition) to provide subsidies to lower-income students.

  11. Larry talks about redistribution being executed by higher ed INSTITUTIONS everywhere, but I think that is incorrect and needs clarification. Historically, this was not done in U.S. public higher ed and it does not to my knowledge occur (at scale) anywhere else in the world. The U.S. is unique in this regard.

    The redistribution UVA is executing (separate from government programs) is often called the high-tuition/high-aid model. This model originated with selective private colleges in the US. (In contrast, I think less selective privates can more accurately be described as on a high-tuition/high-discount model.) Only relatively recently has this spread to US public institutions, and there it is largely used only by higher-cost, selective universities like UVA. Before this, selective public universities typically maintained low tuition and government programs like Pell were introduced to make college more affordable for low income students (the financial aid office in colleges determines eligibility).

    It is difficult to break apart college financials, but I think most public colleges do not practice this high-tuition/high-aid model to any great degree. (This doesn’t mean federal aid and loan guarantees aren’t helping to support higher costs.) Using federal data on College Navigator, you can see that the lowest net prices in Virginia for students with family incomes below $75K are at VMI, W&M, and UVA. The highest net prices for this income are at VCU, Longwood, GMU, and Christopher Newport, where the net price for this income range 2-3X higher, a huge difference. This suggests to me VCU, Longwood, and GMU are largely relying on federal grants like Pell while VMI, W&M, and UVA are heavily leveraging other funds for financial aid grants (redistribution).

    I don’t remember an explicit discussion on redistribution in Virginia, but I do recall that the Restructuring Act of 2005 had Access and Affordability as the top objectives. So it could be that that act set this all in motion and essentially lets public colleges behave like private schools, although it could be unintended consequences for many legislators. I think Jim is torn on this subject, but I recall him using the term “Let UVA be UVA”, and that act probably set this in motion (and produced the much-debated Strategic Fund).

  12. The chief difference between a state university and all the other comparables cited in this discussion is that they, unlike public tranportation agencies, free meal programs, and the DMV, actually have a source of funds that they may choose to redistribute as financial aid. In UVA’s case, if Pres Ryan said, “I’ve got $2.3B in that Strategic Slush Fund and I’m going to spend it by handing out aid to those who cannot afford UVA” I would say fine. It’s not even endowment, though schools have that if they want to make hand-outs. The defenders of that fund claim its source is gifts and growth–spend that, lock down tuition and fees, and make UVA affordable to middle class Virginians as well as those with less. Stop taking so many out-of-state students with their high tuition that you can then hand over to the poor. And quit going to the General Assembly pleading for more tax $.

  13. One other comment on the high-tuition/high-aid model. We’ve discussed whether it is legal and fair. To me its implementation seems to be strongly correlated with the growth in overall costs. It could be a Chicken/Egg thing, but the evidence I’ve seen is that aid only goes up about 60% as much as tuition, so it can be argued this really a palliative for the underlying cost disease.

    • Izzo says;

      “but the evidence I’ve seen is that aid only goes up about 60% as much as tuition, so it can be argued this really a palliative for the underlying cost disease.”

      As is the usual case, Izzo is quite right about that.

      Izzo also said above in earlier comment.”

      “I don’t remember an explicit discussion on redistribution in Virginia, but I do recall that the Restructuring Act of 2005 had Access and Affordability as the top objectives. So it could be that that act set this all in motion and essentially lets public colleges behave like private schools, although it could be unintended consequences for many legislators.”

      Izzo is also quite right about that too.

      I’ll try to elaborate on his two observations, and how they happened in real time, in an upcoming comment.

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