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.