Concerning tuition and fees at Virginia's colleges and universities, The Post's readers should keep two things in mind ["Fee Increases Eat Into Va. Tuition Cut," front page, June 23]:

The first is that families are paying more now because in recent years the state chose to slash what it contributes to the costs of running a system of higher education. Of course, those costs remained, and someone had to pick up the tab. Virginia's governor and legislators chose to stiff the students.

The second is that student fees (the details of which are rarely easily available) pay for many things. Some are necessary -- e.g., a medical center, psychological counseling, recreational sports -- but others are peripheral, e.g., intercollegiate sports. At William and Mary, for example, each student pays more than $900 a year in fees that support mainly football and basketball (the Olympic sports starve). Over four years, that's $3,600 that many students have to borrow or work long hours to earn.

Virginia's Council of Higher Education ought to probe why 17 percent of William and Mary's fees and tuition go to intercollegiate athletic programs that do not figure in its official mission statement.



The writer is chairman of the English Department at the College of William and Mary.