Some schools still don’t get it. Families are struggling in these challenging times…but the University of Virginia Board of Visitors nevertheless voted to raise in-state tuition by 3.8 percent and out-of-state tuition by 4.8 percent.
Last year the inflation rate was 1.74 percent.
Times like these call for creative solutions that will improve access, affordability, and educational quality. Instead, UVa has proposed more of the higher-ed status quo: a four-year plan for tuition increases and investments in the university’s physical plant.
The university’s plan is virtually silent on innovations that could save money, increase efficiency, and improve the educational experience. It increases faculty salaries—but it does not take steps to increase faculty productivity or to assess student learning outcomes.
What’s more, while renovations to campus buildings may be needed, the university should start by examining how it uses its space—and whether it needs all the buildings it has. At the University of Virginia, classrooms are used an average of 32.7 hours/week—well under the state standard of 40 hours/week.
The board’s four-year plan is called “financing academic excellence”—but it’s not clear what they are doing to ensure that UVa will safeguard and enhance academic excellence.
Two members of the Board of Visitors deserve commendation for objecting to the tuition hike. Rector Helen Dragas and Dr. Edward Miller both voted against the increase; Dragas pointed out that tuition was increasing at an unsustainable rate (it has nearly doubled in the last nine years) and that many institutions are now freezing or reducing tuition. Let us hope that, in the future, the board listens to voices like Dragas and Miller and demonstrates the courage and creativity needed to keep tuition low.