The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

BOV Considers Mid-Year Tuition Increase

4 min read

This Friday, the Board of Visitors will be deciding on a proposed mid-year $100 tuition increase, according to the Free Lance-Star.  If passed, the increase will be effective next semester. UMW is the only Virginia public university considering a mid-year increase, where the funds would be used to finance one-time expenses, such as computers, Vice President Rick Hurley told the Free Lance-Star.

As students and faculty wait to know how they will be affected by the budget reductions and tuition rates next year, some are worried that the quality of education at UMW is in jeopardy if enough funding is not available.

“The community of students and faculty as scholars is being compromised,” English, Linguistics, and Speech Department Chair Teresa Kennedy said.

With recent Virginia budget cuts, the UMW administration says it will be difficult to maintain the quality of education at the university without significantly increasing the tuition.

According to Provost Jay Harper, UMW receives 23 percent of its budget from the Virginia government.  The remaining budget comes from student tuition and endowments held by the UMW Foundation, a nonprofit organization that manages private donations to the university.

“We’re struggling to make things balance out,” Harper said. “We are not charging what we’re worth.”

When this year’s graduating class entered UMW in 2006, the cost of tuition for in-state students was 14 percent lower than it is today, increasing by $514, according to the Office of Student Accounts.

The 2009 Princeton Review ranks UMW in the top 100 Best Value Public Universities.  According to their website, when compared with other public universities, the small classroom size and “homey atmosphere” set UMW aside, and also that UMW “is a public bastion of the liberal arts that offers a private school education at half the cost.”

It is not uncommon for tuition to go up annually due to inflation, but the budget reductions have put more of a strain on university resources, according to Harper.

As a result of the 15 percent budget reductions this year under Gov. Tim Kaine, Harper says he is doing everything in his power to maintain the quality of education, including no faculty layoffs this year.

Due to Obama’s stimulus package, the budget reductions experienced were lowered to 8 percent, according to Harper.  The university will collect the same $2.4 million of stimulus money next year, however the funds will end after that, as reported by the Free Lance-Star.

Some students understand that tuition goes up annually due to inflation but are apprehensive about the impact the budget reductions will have.

“I think it would be a detriment to the student population to raise the tuition in such hard economic times, especially those who are paying their own way through school,” sophomore Kane Kashouty said.  “UMW has been known for lower tuition, and I think raising it too much would be a bad idea.”

Harper said he will not know how much tuition will increase for next year until Kaine announces the annual budget later this year.
However, Virginia legislators announced Tuesday that there will be a 2.7 billion deficit over the next two years, according to the Free Lance-Star.

“We were able to reach our budget reduction target without any employee layoffs, and this has been an overarching priority for us,” President Judy Hample said in a recent email to the faculty.

Harper said the budget reductions were handled by leaving vacant tenure spots open, giving more adjunct positions to help fill those spots.  The Free Lance-Star reported Wednesday that there were seven vacant professor and eight support staff positions left open, while other cuts were made in campus activities and administrative departments.

Marcel Rotter, assistant professor of German in the department of modern foreign languages, has seen this impact first-hand.

He said that he’s experienced the budget reductions “pretty heavily” in the German department.

“I didn’t get my second tenure position filled,” he said. “We only have two full-time professors.”

According to Rotter the remaining classes are being taught by recently retired professors who have returned to teach as adjuncts.  However, he said this system will work for only one or two years.

“The longer we wait to fill the positions, the worse it will be,” he said.
Rotter predicted that should there be further budget cuts next year, there may be job cuts, a reduction in courses offered and less courses to choose from.

At this time, Harper is unsure whether there will be another budget reduction next year, but he says it is a possibility.

“We’ve cut everything that we could without affecting the quality of education,” Harper said.  “I don’t think I can say that if we get the same cut again.”

Kennedy has also seen the impact of the reductions on the faculty and her department.  The English department has been unable to fill two tenure tracks and one renewable term appointment over the past three years due to budget cuts, Kennedy said.

“We can hang on, but it’s not healthy,” she said.  “We’ve cut to the bone. I don’t see anything left to cut.”