RD248 - 2016-17 Tuition and Fees at Virginia’s State-Supported Colleges and Universities

Executive Summary:
*This report includes the reporting requirements for the following 2016 Appropriation Act Items: 150.C.; 154.F.; 158.D.; 165.H.; 169.D.; 173.C.; 177.F.; 181.I.; 185.C.; 189.D.; 196.K.; 203.F.; 207.M.; 213.T.; 219.D.; 224.I.; and 230.G.

The first goal of the Virginia Plan for Higher Education, the statewide strategic plan, is to provide affordable higher-education access for all. The alignment of state appropriations, financial aid and tuition and fees is critical to achieving this goal. Analysis of tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in Virginia must include a discussion of the funding received from the General Assembly. The 2016 General Assembly began its regular session with a projection of modest economic growth for the 2016-18 biennium. Even so, the General Assembly provided an additional $223 million in general fund for operating budget and financial aid needs to higher education institutions for the biennium. The majority (62%) of the additional funding for operations was provided specifically for college access and affordability to control tuition increases that many Virginia students and their families have found difficult to manage. In addition, the Governor and the General Assembly provided more than $48 million in additional support for undergraduate need-based student aid. This represents the largest increase on record. Including all additional support for higher education-related agencies, the grand total of additional funding for the 2016-18 biennium is $314 million — a notable reinvestment in Virginia public higher education and a best practice for future biennia.

As a result, Virginia undergraduate students entering public colleges and universities in fall 2016 will experience a moderate increase in tuition and mandatory educational and general (E&G) fees — an average increase of 4.6%. This increase is just 0.1% higher than the 4.5% tuition increase in FY2013 which was the lowest annual tuition increase in a decade. More importantly, excluding the College of William and Mary (CWM) and the University of Virginia (UVA) that have variable tuition charges to their in-state undergraduate students in FY2017, the average tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students for the system will be 2.9%, setting a new record for the lowest annual increase since FY2003 when the General Assembly lifted the tuition freeze. Twelve out of 17 public institutions (Virginia Community College System is counted as one institution) have FY2017 tuition increases that are 3% or less. In fact, 97% of in-state undergraduate students attending Virginia public institutions will have tuition increases that are 3% or less. For tuition and all mandatory fees, the increase for in-state undergraduate students (including enrollment-weighted charges for William & Mary and UVA) will be 4.6% in FY2017. Excluding William & Mary and UVA, the increase of tuition and all mandatory fees will be 3.6% on average which also sets the lowest annual increase in the past 15 years. Clearly, the state’s reinvestment in public higher education in the next biennium has helped public institutions to curb tuition increases, thus moving the Commonwealth closer to achieving the first goal of the Virginia Plan — providing affordable college access for all.

This report focuses on tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates and provides a summary of the following four items: 1) board-approved tuition and fee increases for the 2016-17 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 as follows:

1. Tuition and Mandatory E&G Fees: Mandatory student charges used to support instruction and education-related 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.