Board of Visitors considers 2-6% tuition increase

Published February 16, 2022, University of Mary Washington Weekly Ringer

by Jean Mondoro

Senior Writer

The University is considering an increase in tuition and fees between 2% and 6% for the 2022-2023 academic year. The Board of Visitors will be voting on the tuition increase during their meeting on April 8.

“A discussion of various revenue sources supporting the university occurs every year as part of the budget development process,” said Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer Paul Messplay. “We look at all the revenue sources, including tuition and fees, support we receive from the state and various other sources in order to determine the amount of available resources to support projected costs in the coming year.”

The potential increase was announced in an email sent to the community on Feb. 7. According to the email, the increase would provide greater compensation for faculty and staff. The increase in tuition would also impact the cost of “goods and services” provided by the university, as stated in the email. 

When the notice was sent on Feb. 7, Anna Billingsley, the associate vice president for university relations, wrote that the decision was ongoing due to the 2022-24 state budget still being determined by the General Assembly.

“As we prepare the budget, we are constantly trying to find the right balance between revenue generation and cost savings through budget reductions,” Messplay said.

The Board of Visitors will be hosting a public comment session at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center in the Rappahannock Ballroom on Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. to allow the UMW community to give feedback on the potential tuition increase. Those planning to attend may sign up for a slot during which to make a comment on the Board of Visitors website.

Some students have shared their frustration about the potential increase.

“Whenever I hear a university is raising tuition rates, I can’t help but laugh,” said senior political science major Shawn Fleetwood. “Colleges like UMW get tens of thousands of dollars from students every year and always somehow manage to still end up asking for us to shell out more money. While I understand that sometimes rates need to be raised to account for additions to the school or upkeep of university buildings, it just seems like so much money is directed to needless places.”

While the increase irritaties junior marketing major Gabby Carrion, if approved, the additional cost will not prohibit her from attending the university. 

“I don’t think the tuition increase would affect my ability of going to school,” she said. “It will be annoying, but I would still be able to attend college.”

When asked about the frustration some students may feel towards a tuition increase, Messplay said, “We are mindful of the impact that cost increases can have on students and their families. At the same time, we have real operating cost increases that must be addressed in order to continue to provide the high-quality educational experience our students expect.”

According to an announcement the Eagle Eye, the faculty and staff newsletter, UMW has not increased tuition rates for three consecutive years since the beginning of the pandemic in spring 2020. The last increase was in 2019, when the Board of Visitors agreed upon a 2.4% increase for in-state students and 2.7% increase for out-of-state students, according to the UMW website.

In Aug. 2021, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia published a report outlining the finances of these institutions during the pandemic. During the 2021-22 year, 11 institutions for higher education in Virginia did not increase tuition.

“This is largely due to concerns related to access and affordability, especially during the COVID-19 period,” the report states. “Additional state and federal funding and recognition from boards of visitors to keep tuition low for students.”

Although many Virginia colleges and universities have yet to publish their budget and tuition rates for the current year, the University of Virginia has already approved an increase of 4.7% for the 2022-23 year and a 3.7% increase for the 2023-24 year.

At UMW, members of the community see different long-term effects of the upcoming year’s potential financial changes.  

“In general, I do not think the increases we are considering will have a dramatic impact on future enrollment,” said Messplay. “On the other hand, if we do not increase our tuition and fees, I think the budget reductions that would have to be put in place would impact student programs, services and other operations.”

Carrion worries that the increase will further the financial problems of students who are already struggling.

“Obviously, I’m not in charge of the university,” she said. “But if they feel that it’s necessary, it probably is. I think it could cause more harm in the future just because a lot of people are struggling to pay for college already and loans are piling up for many students and this would just inflate those problems even more.”

While the decision remains to be finalized, some students see the potential tuition increase as a source of tension between students and administration.

“I think if you ask UMW students, the vast majority of them will say it’s a bad idea because they’re going to have to bear the financial burden of such a decision,” said Fleetwood. “If you ask the school, they’ll argue it’s a great thing for the longevity of the school and will help attract more upcoming college students to enroll. In the end, this entire situation is an unnecessary change that’s just going to lead to more friction between the administration and the student body.”

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