In preparation for the April 4 Board of Visitors meeting on tuition and fees, Virginia Tech hosted a public comment session at the Holtzman Alumni Center.
Vice-Rector and Finance and Resource Management Committee Chair Edward Baine opened the event. In reference to the presentation, Baine stated that because the Virginia General Assembly had yet to decide on a budget, it would be difficult to know the actual amount of funding Virginia Tech would receive from the state. Therefore, how state funding would affect tuition and fees is unknown at this time.
The presentation was created by Chris Kiwus, Virginia Tech’s interim senior vice president and chief business officer, and Ken Miller, the vice president for finance and the division of budget and financial management. Miller discussed the many factors that go into the university’s funding, the state’s role, and how it affects tuition prices for students, in addition to the proposed range of tuition increase for the 2022–23 academic year.
According to Miller, the proposed range of increase for all undergraduate and graduate students is 0.0% to 4.9%, with a potential increase of up to $133 in comprehensive fees.
“In the last several years, we’ve generally had increases that are less than other Virginia institutions, and we’re pretty proud of that,” Miller said. “We have had a goal to keep our tuition increases to a minimum.”
Miller went on to break down Virginia Tech’s sources of revenue and said, “The in-state tuition makes up about 31% of our revenues, out-of-state tuition about 38%.”
Miller stated one factor contributing to tuition increases was state funding, which he described as roughly 20% of the budget.
“As time has gone by since the last major recession, student support per student from the general funds from the state taxpayer dollars have eroded, and then we look at on an actual basis just in terms of not inflation adjusted, on a per student basis we’ve lost $1,700, but when you adjust it for inflation … it’s much more significant,” Miller said. “We went from at a little less than 10,000 down to a little bit more than 4,000 per student, so we lost over $5,000 per student in state appropriations. And as we’ve grown that’s been significant, so that’s one of the drivers for our tuition increases.”
Miller further commented on the uncertainty of the state’s budget, and said, “The general assembly has yet to decide their budget, and how much each state institution is going to get for the coming year, so that’s a big influence on how we make tuition decisions, because it does drive 25% of the revenues that we have, so we do need to figure out what the state is going to do before we set tuition and fees.”
When describing the various items student tuition and fees are used to fund, Miller said the majority of tuition and fees are used to pay academic faculty and staff, as well as library services and advising programs.
President of the Undergraduate Student Senate Caroline Lohr commented on students’ frequent misinterpretations of where tuition and fees go. Lohr described having to explain the various sources of revenue and how state funding impacts students.
“I then have to elaborate that a bulk of those areas where students are complaining are auxiliary funds, that their tuition is a majority of what funds that entity,” Lohr said. “Students want to know where their money is going, and want to feel the benefit outside of the academic region. We see the buildings being put up, and new construction all over campus, yet the majority of students won’t A. be able to reap those benefits, or B. it doesn’t apply to them.”
Lohr stated that increasing costs and unclear financial reporting would influence student retention rate, as well as attendance of future students.
“While I am advocating for no raised tuition for students, I ask that if there is an increase, that it is focused on the students and the students’ experience, safety and well-being,” Lohr said.
Lohr referenced Cook Counseling as one of the areas she would prefer an increase in tuition and fees to go toward, citing reports of long wait times for students attempting to use its services.
“‘Ut Prosim,’ That I May Serve, is something that is promoted to professors, students, faculty and staff to serve one another in the Hokie Spirit, yet when students struggle to make ends meet and don’t see the results of the fees that they are already paying, they do not feel Ut Prosim from the institution,” said Lohr.
Jack Leff, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, spoke after Lohr.
“Right now students are offered limited avenues to advocate for what those priorities ought to be, in no small part because advocating for tuition and fees has been heavily limited or largely unavailable to us before this year,” Leff said.
“While this forum is a good first step, it is often too late in the process of generating the university budget to have sufficient input into what the university’s priorities ought to be,” Leff said. “Our first recommendation is that we have more of these forums and have them earlier, concerning tuition and fees, as well as the budget development process overall.”
Leff further requested more transparent reporting of tuition in fees, as well as publications students, faculty and staff can easily interpret.
“I’d like to have more advocacy around specific fees, rather than treating them as a package, in order to advocate for individual student services like my colleague Caroline Lohr suggested,” Leff said. “Fees at Virginia Tech go to support vital auxiliaries, like Cook Counseling, that have historically not received the funding they need for a student body our size, although we are beating our peers, so we’d actually like to advocate for higher health fees to support them, which might be a shocking revelation.”