RD203 - 2013-14 Tuition and Fees at Virginia's State-Supported Colleges and Universities

Executive Summary:
The 2013 General Assembly continued its efforts to reverse the downward trend in state support for higher education by adding $25.1 million in general fund for E&G programs in FY2014. This brings the total additional general fund for educational and general (E&G) programs to over $100 million in the 2012-14 biennium. Last year Virginia’s students experienced the lowest tuition and mandatory E&G fee increase in a decade at 4.1%. In FY2014, the increase in tuition and mandatory E&G fees increases but remains one of the lowest in the most recent 10 years at 5.1%. For tuition and all mandatory fees, the average increase for FY2014 will be 4.3%—just slightly higher than last year’s record lowest annual average increase of 4.1%.

The state’s continued reinvestment in public higher education for the current biennium will help public institutions meet the requirements of the Virginia Education Opportunity Act of 2011—Top Jobs (TJ21). For example, an important goal of the legislation is the requirement that the Commonwealth’s public institutions produce 100,000 additional college graduates by the year 2025. The additional general fund support will help Virginia’s public higher education institutions meet the institutional demands that resulted from the rapid increase in enrollment many of them experienced during the recession and increase enrollment capacity for Virginians at the state’s public research institutions.

Like the rest of the country, the Commonwealth’s economy continues to show slow improvement, making the state’s reinvestment in higher education possible for the 2012-14 biennium. While Virginia’s final budget report for FY2013 was not available at the writing of this report, the Commonwealth’s year-to-date general fund revenue has exceeded forecasts consistently since the beginning of the year. Further, Virginia’s May unemployment rate of 5.3% is the 10th lowest unemployment rate in the country and well below the national unemployment rate of 7.6% for May. That said, volatility in the broader national economy still poses a threat to Virginia’s growth. Further, while the full impact of the federal budget cuts—referred to as “sequestration”—that went into effect on March 1st will not be known for some time, these cuts pose a significant downward threat to revenue growth in the Commonwealth in general and to public higher education specifically. SCHEV expects that sequestration will reduce federal funding to Virginia students, researchers, institutions, and workforce-development programs by tens of millions of dollars this year. SCHEV also estimates that the reduction for Virginia higher education will exceed $38 million, and may approach $54 million. The bulk of the higher education cuts will occur in federal support for academic research and development (R&D), but sizeable reductions will also be felt in student financial aid, workforce development, and job search assistance programs.

These cuts make continued reinvestment in the Commonwealth’s system of public higher education essential to ensure that the state continues to develop an educated workforce that will continue to attract investment to the state and that attending college remains affordable for Virginians.

This report focuses on tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates and provides a summary of: 1) board-approved tuition and fee increases for the 2013-14 academic year; 2) tuition and fee trends in Virginia over the past 25 years; 3) the cost-sharing relationship between the state and students; and 4) trends in tuition increases nationally. The appendices provide comparisons of changes in tuition and fees for student groups including in-state undergraduate, out-of-state undergraduate, in-state graduate, out-of-state graduate, in-state first professional, and out-of-state first professional.

In order to assess trends in tuition and fees, it is important to understand higher education pricing. A student planning to attend a public college or university in Virginia can expect to pay the charges defined below:

1. Tuition and Mandatory E&G Fees: Mandatory student charges used to support instruction and related education activities included in the Education and General (E&G) program. E&G subprograms include instruction, research and public service, academic support, student services, institutional support, and the operation and maintenance of physical plants.

2. Mandatory Non-E&G Fees: Mandatory student charges used to support non-instructional activities, such as student health services, athletics, recreational activities, campus transportation, and capital debt service.

3. Tuition and All Fees: Sum of tuition, mandatory E&G fees, and mandatory non-E&G fees.

4. Room and Board: Optional charges used to support the dormitory and dining functions for students choosing to live on campus. Students living off campus are exempt from these charges.

5. Total Price: The total charge to students and parents, excluding student financial aid. This total includes the sum of tuition, all mandatory fees, and room and board.