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The Blue & Gray Press | December 15, 2018

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Tuition May go up 25%

The total cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at Mary Washington could rise by as much as 25 percent for next year, as announced at the Board of Visitors meeting last Friday.

In a presentation during the meeting, Paul Messplay, the executive director of budget analysis, introduced three possible budget scenarios, the lowest of which included a total increase of 15 percent.

President Rick Hurley said tuition needs to go up at least 9 percent just to balance the budget.

“If we want to advance the institution, we have to go up even more,” said Hurley.

These increases reflect the upward trend of the cost of higher education that has developed over the last few years as a result of decreased state funding.

According to the presentation given by Messplay, there has been an overall reduction of $5.7 million in state funding for the university from 2007 to 2010.

Messplay said there is also a $2.3 million reduction scheduled for the 2011 to 2012 fiscal year.

This reduction would bring the total state budget cuts to $8 million, or 35 percent of statgeneral fund support for education and general programs against 2007 to 2008 base, according to Messplay.

All three scenarios include the creation of faculty positions. If the University increases tuition by 25 percent, at the highest 10 new faculty positions could be created. At the lowest, two new positions would appear in the wake of a 15 percent increase.

According to Ernest Ackermann, faculty representative for the BOV and a professor in the computer science department, increasing the amount of faculty would improve the quality of teaching. and would allow professors to have more time to think about their curriculum for each class.

“If we really want to become the best liberal arts state college or state university in the country, then we need to do this,” Ackermann said.
When addressing board members last Friday, Ackerman said that the faculty represents the heart of the institution.

According to Messplay, the 25 percent overall increase would raise faculty salaries and contribute to financial aid for both need-based and merit programs.

It would also add five new staff positions in Facilities Services, increase the maintenance budget, and allow for the hiring of a teaching center director and a grants coordinator.

Ackermann said UMW has been without a teaching center director for the last few years.

“We really need someone in that position, ” he said.

The University has already taken action to offset this reduction in funding through a tuition increase for this school year, budget cuts on maintenance and grounds, and reduced student wages and summer employment hours.

Still, the 25 percent increase would result in a total cost of $18,338 for in-state students living on campus. It would result in a total of $30,066 for out-of-state students on campus, according to the presentation.

Freshman Grace Oshida hopes the school will offer more educational incentives to match the increase.

“That’s going to be tough because my parents are still going to have to pay for three kids going to college,” said Oshida. “If they added new classes, it might be worth it.”

According to the Internal Revenue Service website, parents and students can receive tax credits or deductions for educational expenses, depending on their income. This will either increase the tax refund they receive or decrease their year-end tax bill.

Messplay also compared the projected costs for Mary Washington with those of other public universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  With the 25 percent increase, Mary Washington would rise three spots on the ranking of total university costs for in-state students, from tenth lowest to seventh lowest, according to the presentation.

The Board of Visitors also discussed the implementation of the Strategic Plan for University Advancement. This strategic plan has initial costs estimated to be between $20 million and $25 million, according to Hurley.

According to Messplay, the  strategic plan covers funding need-based student aid, phasing in the diversity scholarship program and continuing to transition to the three-college system that divides the university into the College of Business, the College of Education, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

The plan also includes funding for multicultural programming, plans for a website redesign, and the establishment of a division of professional development and regional engagement for betterment of the university.

According to Messplay, these proposed increases in tuition and fees for the university are made with the assumption that the other public universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia will have to increase their prices at least 10 percent.  The increases are also based on the fact that state funding has been decreasing over the last few years.

“[All public universities have] the same problem,” said Hurley.

According to Hurley, the Board of Visitors also decided Friday to borrow money from the state for two projects—the ongoing renovations of Randolph and Mason Hall, and the replacement next summer of the grass on the soccer and field hockey fields with turf.

The turf will prevent the fields from getting soggy and will allow them to be used year-round.

Hurley indicated that the Randolph and Mason Hall renovations will require the University to borrow $35 million, while the turf replacement will cost $2.5 million.

The BOV will hold their next meeting in late November to further discuss the financial planning of the institution.