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The Blue & Gray Press | October 24, 2017

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Letter: BOV must prioritize affordability

Letter: BOV must prioritize affordability

Dear UMW Board of Visitors,

We write to you as a group of students from across the university deeply concerned about the Board’s plans to sharply increase tuition and fees for next year.

At the Board’s Feb. 20 meeting, it was stated that, in the best-case scenario, the Board will increase tuition and fees for the 2015-2016 school year by 7.25 percent for in-state students and 5.9 percent for out-of-state students. And, in the worst-case scenario, the Board will raise it 11.5 percent for in-state students and 9.7 percent for out-of-state students.

This would be an unprecedented tuition increase. Coupled with increases for room and board, the price tag for in-state students would total $21,125 and for out-of-state students $35,523.

Fifty-seven percent of UMW students already go into debt to get an education here, graduating on average $23,700 in debt, according to 2013 statistics. Tuition and fees have more than tripled at Mary Washington since 2001.

We and our families are already struggling to afford the rapidly increasing cost of college. Almost all of us work part-time or full-time jobs, on top of full course loads. We all have friends and peers who have had to take time off of school or drop out because they were no longer able to afford it. Each of us are going into tens of thousands of dollars of debt and worry that our options will be limited upon graduation because of the large monthly payments we’ll have to make.

We know that Mary Washington is hurting from state funding cuts and a recent decline in enrollment. We know that the University budget is tight. But we also know that our budget is an expression of our priorities, and we think the Board should take a firm stance that students are its priority.

Our priorities, as an organization, are to promote affordability and transparency among the Board of Visitors for the students of Mary Washington. The constant increase in tuition, in addition to the lowered funding for scholarships, place the students of the University in a position where they cannot afford to attend, and as an effect, our enrollment and retention rate suffers for it. In addition, the lack of transparency among the Board of Visitors harms the students as well, as it reduces their ability to properly obtain necessary information and to establish a constructive narrative within the university.

Furthermore, if Mary Washington is concerned about declining enrollment, we should seize this moment as an opportunity to become a model for offering a high-quality, affordable education by boldly insisting on keeping tuition low, particularly for low- and middle-income students. More students will seek out UMW as an affordable, high-quality option. On the contrary, raising tuition sharply next year will see our enrollment decline even further.

Before making a decision at the April 16 and 17 Board meeting, we urge you, the Board of Visitors, to think critically and creatively about how to tackle our budget shortfall. We urge you to decide on a budget that prioritizes keeping UMW an affordable, diverse and inclusive institution, not one increasingly accessible to only the few.

Furthermore, we would sincerely like to hear Board members’ opinions and thoughts on prioritizing affordability. We would love to convene a town hall event with Board members, so that we can have a transparent discussion and students may ask questions. We hope to hear from you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

UMW Students United
umwstudentpower@gmail.com