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’”

  1. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner
    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.

    1. 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.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        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.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          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.

          1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            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.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            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)?

    1. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      Holy s**t, Nathan … what’s the budget for all that crap?

      I hate to think of all I’ve contributed in even admittedly my modest yearly amounts over the years as a 1950 grad … wow.

      Bet my annual gifts to W&M and VIMS probably get wasted in much the same way.

      1. the leader of the diversity dynasty at VT makes $315K.
        take a look at the ‘common book’ it’s promoting among VT students this year

        and look at what this author tweeted about the most recent SCOTUS nominee…. glad VT is supporting/promoting such an open minded person about diversity and racial tolerance…

        1. Atlas Rand Avatar
          Atlas Rand

          Thus my checkbook remains perennially closed when the gift requests from VPI come rolling in.

        2. 315K is a lot of money. If this lady were in that office, however, I might say it’s worth the money. Then get rid of everyone else on that org chart. Check this out from Britain. She’s black and holds nothing back.

          “The Equalities Minister could not have been clearer:

          Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory are political and do not belong in schools.

          Teaching ideas such as ‘white privilege’ as a factual reality is breaking the law!”

    2. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      That’s quite an org chart, no question. Thanks for sharing. I bet it is longer at other schools.

      1. “I bet it is longer at other schools.”

        Indeed. Government institutions run by the left are often bloated, inefficient and full of PHDs in charge of leftist indoctrination.

        Richmond Public Schools is no different. RPS can’t even provide the most basic needs for the children entrusted to them, but they have a PHD in charge of School Climate and Culture Strategy.

        “Dr. Bhagat is currently serving as Manager of School Climate and Culture Strategy for Richmond Public Schools.”

      2. sherlockj Avatar


  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    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!

    1. djrippert Avatar

      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.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        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.

      2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        “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.

        1. 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.

          1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

            Rent. Given the political intrigue surrounding Dragas/Sullivan, a Governor appointed BOV, rent might be the solution.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            as in rent-seeking? 😉

          3. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Use the billions in endowments to buy out the state. Cut every one of those colleges loose.

    2. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

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

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        I think he then said, “We will bury you!” How’d that work out for Shoeless Nikita?

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    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?


    1. sherlockj Avatar


      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Higher Ed Enterprise Zones? 😉

  5. Ben Slone Avatar


    “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.”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

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

    2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      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.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        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.

        1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

          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. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    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.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Marxists on campus. That would be a change in what way?

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        They’d be theirs, not ours.

      2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        OTOH, there’s this “The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations described foreign spending on U.S. schools as a ‘black hole’ and has raised concerns about the potential strings attached.”

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    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”?

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      “a LOT of those College Prez get a bunch of money.” Difference: Mitch Daniels earns his.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Can’t disagree with that.

    2. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      University of Michigan football coach has been earning $7mill a year for about 7 years, I think…

      1. This past April, Dabo Swinney agreed to a 10-year, $93 million contract extension to coach football at Clemson. An argument can be made, though, that if a great football program brings in huge amounts of money to the school, then a great coach is “worth” that kind of salary.

        (see LarrytheG’s reference to college sports being a business)

    3. “Purdue University – Main Campus spent $24,792,379 on men’s teams and received $30,438,437 in revenue.”

      You’ve already answered your own question.


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