The proposal calls for charging more for a U-Va. undergraduate education, while focusing the school’s fundraising efforts on faculty salaries, financial aid and renovation of Thomas Jefferson’s aging “academical village.” In coming years, students could expect annual tuition increases of about 3 to 4 percent, plus an additional fee of $2,000 for their third and fourth years that covers the higher costs of “smaller class sizes, rigorous capstone courses, global learning opportunities, career placement and internships, and increased research opportunities.”
University leaders plan to invest in the “significantly underfunded” library, modernize the school’s technology to support online learning and set aside millions in a “strategic investment fund” that could be used to recruit or retain star faculty, finance partnerships with private companies or support new programs or collaborations.
“You have got to experiment,” said U-Va. Provost John Simon, who helped develop the plan along with the university’s chief operating officer, Patrick Hogan. “I would hate to see the financial strain decrease the entrepreneurial aspect of doing experiments in education on higher-education campuses, especially at this point in history. . . . If you stagnate, you will lose.”
While little is known publicly about the “philosophical difference of opinion” that prompted last summer’s presidential ouster, the dispute between Sullivan and Board of Visitors Rector Helen Dragas has come to symbolize the tensions that have arisen at public universities nationwide. Many struggle as state funding flattens and there is increasing pressure to prepare students for a tight job market.
Dragas said in an interview this month that she is opposed to further increasing tuition. The sticker price for in-state tuition has increased from about $6,150 in 2004 to $12,200 this year. She also noted that the economy has left many Virginia families with stagnant or declining incomes, meaning tuition increases could make the flagship state school inaccessible.
“Accountability for how taxpayer and student money is spent is obviously not a popularity contest,” Dragas said.
The board’s finance committee is expected to have a “very robust discussion” of the plan in Richmond next week, according to Victoria Harker, a board member and chairman of the committee. It is not just a discussion about the university’s upcoming expenses, she said, but also about setting priorities within those expenses.