By COLLEEN HUBER
President Barack Obama proposed a plan to help lower the cost of public college tuition in his State of the Union address in January, planning to reduce funding to those schools that continue to increase tuition.
“It is certainly a policy we are going to have to keep our eye on and one that we, at the University of Mary Washington, are worried about,” said President Rick Hurley.
According to the New York Times, public colleges are responsible for educating over 70 percent of America’s students, and the cost of a four-year public college has tripled since the 1980s.
“The biggest issue about increasing tuition is that students don’t know why the tuition is increasing; they just know that it is,” said sophomore computer science major Kurt Wall.
According to Hurley, the state requires all public colleges to fund some of the cost of initiatives they authorize.
Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance, also explained the issues concerning UMW and tuition increases.
“We are right in the middle, our size makes it difficult to take advantage of an economy of scale,” said Pearce.
Since UMW is a medium-sized school, all of the extra amenities, such as a gym and multiple dining halls, are necessary. However, UMW does not have the amount of students that a larger school has, which allows the others to bring in more revenue, according to Pearce.
Pearce explained that the demands of the school are always changing.
“What you need is always increasing and the cost is always increasing,” said Pearce, in regard to both students and schools.
Obama plans on holding states and universities accountable for tuition increases.
“States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down,” said Obama.
According to his speech, Obama is going to hold public colleges accountable for their part in tuition increases by taking funding from taxpayers away from those who do not stop increases.
“”It is unclear what kind of tuition increase will trigger that,” said Hurley.
“I like what he is trying to do but I don’t think that we are financially stable to do that,” said Wall.
Ranked by U.S News and World Report as one of the most affordable public universities, UMW is already well aware of the importance of keeping tuition costs low.
“Higher education can’t be a luxury—it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” said Obama.
“We are going to grow a little, but stay as lean as we can,” said Pearce.
More students will help keep costs down but it will take more than just a little growth to help.
“If you can’t cut expenses, generate more revenue,” said Pearce.
By using UMW as a center to meet, summer conferences will help to generate more money by renting out the universities facilities. The location of the school is ideal because it is located right between Washington, D.C. and Richmond.
Additionally, classroom space is being rented at the Stafford campus by government agencies.
“We have to become more of a business,” said Pearce.
UMW is also using centers such as Eagle Village to generate more revenue, thereby bringing profit back to the university.