In-state undergraduates at Virginia's two- and four-year public colleges will pay 8.2 percent more for tuition and fees this school year compared with last year, according to a report by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
At the 15 four-year schools, the average amount of annual in-state tuition and all mandatory fees (not including room and board) is $6,078, up 8.3 percent from 2004-05, according to the report.
In-state students at two-year community colleges will see their tuition and total mandatory fees rise 6.4 percent, to $2,135. Richard Bland, the state's junior college in Petersburg, is increasing its tuition and fees 6.8 percent, to $2,350.
The General Assembly has provided $61 million more for higher education for 2005-06 -- in addition to the $278 million originally added for the 2004-06 biennium -- to help offset rising costs and address longtime funding gaps. But the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has said that Virginia's public college system still is under-funded by at least $300 million.
Last year, tuition and fees rose by about 9 percent, following 15 percent increases in each of the two previous years. This fall, average tuition and fees will be higher than they would have been if they'd kept pace with inflation between 1995-96 and 2005-06, the report said.
"While state support for higher education will increase by over 20 percent this biennium, it should be noted that systemwide, state appropriations are still 5 percent below the 2001-02 levels," the year before the General Assembly enacted budget reductions prompted by the 2002-04 recession, the report said.
For 2005-06, room and board will cost in-state students an average of $6,194, up 4.5 percent from last year -- about half the price of their college education. The total average price of a year of college for an in-state undergraduate is $12,273, up 6.4 percent.
The report also said that over the past decade, Virginia's economic conditions influenced public colleges' tuition rates. The state restricted tuition increases during good economic times and allowed double-digit increases to offset funding reductions during a poor economy.
Virginia's median in-state public education costs for 2005-06 total 37.5 percent of per-capita disposable income, up from 36.9 percent last year, the report said. Disposable income is money left after taxes and other payments to the government. Despite tuition increases, that's lower than a decade ago, when the figure was 40 percent.
Under 2005-06 rates, in-state undergraduates are responsible for 34 percent of their tuition costs; the state covers the other 66 percent. The state's goal over the biennium was for the state to cover 67 percent of the costs for in-state undergraduates, council officials said.
Although college is more affordable than 10 years ago, based on per-capita disposable income, "it has been achieved by shifting the state's cost-sharing policy with varying degrees of equity depending on when a student entered into the system," according to the report. Also, the lack of predictability of tuition costs has limited students and their families in planning and saving for college, the report said.
Tuition increases in the last few years followed years in which Republican governors George Allen and James S. Gilmore III and the legislature restricted, and even decreased, undergraduate tuition and fee charges. Tuition and fees were frozen for in-state undergraduates starting in the 1996-97 school year. They were rolled back 20 percent in 1999-2000 and weren't increased until 2002-03.
Statewide funding cuts started in fall 2002, and schools were authorized to impose a midyear tuition increase. Beginning in the 2004-05 school year, institutions had authority to set tuition at rates they considered appropriate.