Virginia’s Higher-Ed Juggernaut Keeps on Truckin’

Source: “The State of Higher Education in Virginia,” Oct. 20, 2020, presentation to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.

During what may be the sharpest economic contraction in United States history, Virginia’s public colleges and universities managed to increase their tuition & fees by 1.6% this year — 1.7% if you don’t include the community colleges, which enacted no increases at all. Despite the challenge of the COVID-19 epidemic and the recession, enrollment at Virginia’s public four-year institutions declined only 0.2%, according to data presented by Peter Blake, executive director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee today.

I have to credit Virginia’s public universities with their resilience. I’ve been predicting for several years that at some point they would hit a wall of resistance to the ever-escalating cost of attendance. Sooner or later, I thought, students and parents would rebel. Well, that hasn’t happened yet. If the public colleges can survive this year’s double whammy, they may be impervious to market forces. (Hat tip: Steve Haner)


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43 responses to “Virginia’s Higher-Ed Juggernaut Keeps on Truckin’

    I sent you the presentation thinking you might also listen in to the virtual meeting…in case you didn’t:

    Peter said only five of the schools actually raised tuition and most did not. The Community College System did not. So that average 1.2% tuition increase is really focused on a few schools, which he did not identify and did not get asked to list.

    He also went into some detail on the enrollment losses, which are mainly focused on entering students (down 10% system wide.) Virginia Tech has 1,000 fewer freshmen, VCU is down 719, and George Mason down 640. On a percentage basis, Virginia State is down 25% and Radford 19%. There is some hope that more may appear for second semester.

    • Steve, you’re right to draw attention to the 10% enrollment losses among freshmen. In a way, that’s more worrisome than if the losses had been spread across all levels. Once committed to an institution, people who are already enrolled are likely to stick with it. But entering students might be the “canary in the coal mine” — a leading indicator of bigger problems to come. We’ll see.

      • Some of that 10% decline in entering freshmen may be deferrals. Of course, this is ancedotal, but a friend of mine told me that his grandson had been accepted to JMU, but decided not to go this year because of the uncertainty over whether the school would have on-campus classes. The school deferred his admission and he is taking classes at the local community college and the credits he earns will transfer to JMU.

        Of course, for those that deferred admission for a year but are not taking classes elsewhere, their admission for next year will be one less body that can be accepted for the 2021-2022 freshman class. This 10% drop will probably have to roll through the next four years.

        • I’d not be surprised that there are a lot of deferrals and people basically treading water until this thing goes away and we get back to normal business.

          Which, by the way, includes big time sports at most higher ed with salaries in the 500K range – way, way more that the rest of those silly College administrators that some folks in BR blather incessantly about.

          What is it about high dollar sports utilizing marginal academically qualifed that belongs in higher ed?

          I’m all for College Sports by the way – the kind we saw back before it got to be a big business. Sports teachs important lessons but it ought to be for ALL students.

          • Dick Hall-Sizemore

            I agree with the criticism of the high salaries for college coaches. However, it needs to be pointed out that those salaries, or at least the bulk of them, do not come from public money. They come from donations by alumni to the various athletic foundations associated with the schools.

          • They do. But they are essentially businesses that have absolutely nothing to do with higher ed academics…

            again – not talking about traditional college sports but what some of them have become now – they have ZIP to do with higher ed in basic mission and function.

  2. Higher Education has forgotten its mission. Too much money and resources are dedicated to things other than instruction. Why must we pay for that?

    Check out the Office for Inclusion and Diversity. Lots of salaries there. As a parent paying tuition to VT, I’m wondering exactly what we’re getting.

    And this is how we will compete with China? Convert the U.S. into a country filled to the brim with Social Justice Warriors who won’t even call out real injustice, like the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)?

  3. Higher Ed actually is a market and compare them to pickup trucks verses regular cars.

    You can pick up a NICE car for 25-30K. Try getting a pickup for that.

    Higher Ed is the same way.. Yeah you can get a no-name College education but if you want the words UVA or VaTech on it – you’re gonna pay – and they know it AND they charge what the market will bear.

    All this talk about marxism and socialism and all that stuff, here we have UBER entrepreneurship and higher ED is SCHOOLING us!

    My bet is that they pay consultants to find out just how much they can charge before the demand slips!

    • The makers of cars and pickup trucks are private enterprises. UVa and VT are property of The Commonwealth of Virginia.

      Do you think that VDOT should charge what the market will bear when it comes to the cost of registering a car or renewing license plates?

      The General Assembly is practicing dereliction of duty by washing their collective hands of governing a multi-billion dollar state resource by substituting governance from an assortment of political donors.

      • Should they? In their own minds, the more revenues they can bring in, the bigger and better programs they can offer and in doing so be less reliant on State support.

        They’re truly selling a product. I don’t think DMV really is although they do offer vanity plates.

        And GAWD knows, UVA/Tech don’t want no more “interference” from state bean-counters tell them how to do business…

        They’re doing what hospitals do in a way when the hospitals sell “elective” surgeries to help subsidize the rest of their operations.

      • “UVa and VT are property of The Commonwealth of Virginia.”

        Yes, but the business they operate on that property is more, and more, becoming a private enterprise. As the State continues to reduce its participation in the operating expenses of the school, it should, rightfully so, expect less and less control over the enterprise.

        • UVa, Tech an W&M already enjoy enormous autonomy and exemptions from many state regulations. The state has a three-tiered system. Universities meeting the standards for fiscal solvency and operational capability are allowed to apply for relief from state regs. There’s not a whole lot more autonomy the state can give UVa, Tech, W&M (and VCU, too, as I recall) without freeing them entirely from state control.

          I would have no problem with letting these elite institutions “graduate” to independence were it not for one consideration — the state owns all the underlying real estate, buildings, and assets. If the elites want to spin off as private entities, they need to repay the taxpayers of Virginia for a century or more of public investment. Somehow, I doubt that’s in the cards.

    • Wasn’t in Khruschev who said we’d sell them the rope used to hang us? He was by far their best phrase maker…

  4. Think of Higher Ed in Virginia like other public service corporations. Maybe like Dominion? I see more outrage about Higher Ed than I do Dominion…

    It’s okay to be screwed on electricity but not higher ed?


  5. From

    “Purdue President Mitch Daniels on Saturday (Feb. 15) announced that tuition at the university’s flagship West Lafayette campus will hold at 2012 levels through 2021-22, marking the ninth straight year of no tuition increase.”

    • No question. Daniels is a true fiscal conservative. we could use more like him at Higher Ed.

    • Was it Purdue what bought insurance to protect against a pandemic loss? One of those mid western schools collected some $30M because they added a rider back in the early 2000s.

      • The Purdue University Board of Trustees approved President Mitch Daniels’ 2019 at-risk pay Thursday morning at 103 percent. That adds $221,450 to his base salary, bringing his total compensation for the fiscal year to $901,450. Daniels has a base salary of $430,000, and a retention of $250,000.

        James E. Ryan
        President University of Virginia
        2018-19 total compensation

        Purdue University – Main Campus spent $24,792,379 on men’s teams and received $30,438,437 in revenue. On average, Purdue University – Main Campus gave male athletes $17,136 in sports related student aid.

        There are 8 head coaches for men’s teams. On average they make $444,259. They are supported by 31 assistant coaches who earn $131,308 on average.

        • Christopher Newport University’s President Paul Trible took home more than $800,000 in compensation and bonuses in the 2015 fiscal year — more than the presidents of some of the largest universities in the state, including Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. Trible’s compensation in 2014-15 was $815,155.

  6. If Virginia put UVa, VT, W&M on the market today, they’d be out of the prestige college education business tomorrow.

    China would buy them all, and THEN you’d really have Marxists on campus.

  7. Looks like a LOT of those College Prez get a bunch of money including Mitch Daniels.

    And the sports coaches – Holy Moly – I’m wondering how much Aubrey Lane or the head of VDH gets…

    400K for a College sports coach… is College sports also a “business”?

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