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The Blue & Gray Press | August 21, 2019

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Hurley Defends Possible UMW Tuition Increases

President Rick Hurley approached members of UMW’s Student Senate in a forum where he defended the planned tuition hike, addressing many students’ objections.

He opened his speech with the statement that no decision has been made yet regarding tuition.

“This is a conversation about what could and might happen,” he said.

There are two possible scenarios that could occur, he said. The first scenario would raise tuition by $1,206 per year. The second would raise it by $2,464 per year.

Hurley said that as UMW struggles to avoid falling off a financial cliff, the university is looking towards its reputation as well, with an eye towards the SACS reaccreditation process that has already begun.

In order to maintain everything at its current standard, tuition would need to increase in the first scenario next year, Hurley said.

Any additional progress made with the university’s Strategic Plan, which was formed by Hurley to chart the future vision and formation of Mary Washington, would require the higher rates provided in the second scenario.

“This is a great, great institution,” he said. “We can’t tread water. That’s why we’re having this conversation.”

He put the possible tuition raise in the context of $8 million in budget cuts, or 35 percent of UMW’s budget, since 2007.

For the 2011-2012 academic year alone, the Commonwealth of Virginia will cut $2.3 million, according to Hurley, and the federal stimulus money provided by the Obama administration to public colleges and universities for two years will also no longer be available.

Hurley cleared up the misconception among UMW students that the tuition hike is related to the construction of Eagle Village. He said the UMW Foundation funded the project entirely and no funds from UMW were used.

“By state law, tuition can’t be used to build buildings,” he said.

He defined tuition as the final cost for a student to attend Mary Washington, including tuition, room charges, dining hall plans and comprehensive fees.

The Department of Information Technology and the Office of Purchasing and Central Storeroom have been hit the hardest, according to Hurley. Most university purchasing departments have around five or six employees; UMW has two.

“[The IT department has] something like 12 positions down in that area,” he said.

Hurley mentioned a possible scenario where the lack of funding for personnel in these departments would be harmful to the way the university is perceived if the university is ever audited.

If the university is audited, and they find “significant deficiencies in these areas, we will be publicly embarrassed,” Hurley said.

Hurley said that his years as the university’s chief financial officer have shown him that a tuition raise is the only option left.

“If anyone knows where the fat is in the budget, it would be me,” he said. “It’s not like we have room in our budget to reduce it any further.”

Photo: President Rick Hurley speaking at the student senate meeting Wednesday afternoon. Olivia Snider/Bullet.


  1. um

    Call me crazy for thinking this, but why don’t they just ask the UMW Foundation for some $$? Aren’t they the ones busily building villages while the non-real-estate side of UMW goes down the tubes financially? Perhaps I’m missing something.

  2. gregory

    Good thinking, um.

    The foundation accepts donations on the school’s behalf, using the school’s name, so Hurley’s idea that its funds are unrelated strikes me as intentionally misleading. Oh, and Hurley sits on the board of the foundation, as does UMW’s CFO, the president of the Alumni Association, and the rector of the BOV. Unrelated to tuition? I think not.

    “Hurley cleared up the misconception among UMW students that the tuition hike is related to the construction of Eagle Village. He said the UMW Foundation funded the project entirely and no funds from UMW were used.”

  3. Aubrey

    Remember when we were all excited about Hurley becoming the new president? I miss those days.

  4. um

    I was, I think, the only person in the galaxy who was never particularly excited about that development. I think I knew we were in trouble as a university when people decided they didn’t like Hample because she, of all things, “wasn’t seen around campus that much” (gasp). Heaven forbid, maybe she was an introvert and spent her time crafting brilliant strategies to better our university. Maybe not, but maybe. I think sometimes we forget that a university president isn’t a university mascot. By that, I’m not suggesting that Hurley is a mascot or a poor leader, but rather that I think we may have our priorities wrong.

    Just because I have too much free time, here are some constructive criticisms of Hurley’s current strategic plan, which I summarize as follows (based on another Bullet article):

    1) Increase name recognition and “knowledge of our existence”; we’re apparently so inherently awesome that the rest will take care of itself.
    2) Build lots of nice new facilities to keep students entertained.
    3) If there’s time, there should be some attention paid to faculty salaries.

    I think it’s a little naive to suggest that UMW is so great that just telling more people we exist would help much. If someone with an acceptance letter to UVA who had never heard of us suddenly found out about UMW, would they really change their minds and go here instead? I doubt it.

    I really think someone needs to re-assess this idea that increased visibility equals increased high-quality applicants, because that paradigm just hasn’t yielded results.

    Why not bump funding for academic programs and faculty salary increases to priority one? Name recognition does no good if people hear about us and see that our programs are under-funded and our faculty underpaid. Academics are the most important asset of any university, and a little more funding for ours wouldn’t hurt.

  5. SB

    Anybody ever play SimCity?

    Please, please, please, don’t fall into the trap of griping about where the funding should fall when you really don’t know what the budget looks like.

    The fact that UMW avoided the this tuition hike for so long is a miracle. Go back and look at tuition trends across the country for the past ten years. Public colleges unfortunately do not live in an economically safe bubble.