The Washington Post this week published a viewpoint from Helen E. Dragas, who had just left the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors after her second four-year term. Dragas was rector, or leader of the board, in 2012 when she sought unsuccessfully to oust U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan. In the opinion piece, Dragas argued that U-Va. is “slowly being privatized,” criticized recent tuition increases and said the university could make better use of what she called a $2.3 billion “slush fund.”
The Post invited U-Va.’s leadership to reply. University spokesman Anthony P. de Bruyn sent this statement:
“The University of Virginia remains steadfast in its long-time commitment to providing an affordable, accessible and world-class education to all qualified students. The university’s innovative Affordable Excellence model ensures that U-Va. will remain affordable to all citizens of the commonwealth while enabling the university to make important investments that support U-Va.’s strategic plan, the Cornerstone Plan.
“The foundation of Affordable Excellence is a long-term financial plan that optimizes organizational efficiencies and cost savings, restructures the debt portfolio, increases the endowment payout, creates a new liquidity policy and prudently manages required reserves that support the university’s top AAA bond rating, which was recently reaffirmed by Standard & Poor’s.
“The funds that support the Cornerstone Plan enable strategic investments in our faculty, academic programs, clinical enterprise, research infrastructure and physical space needs that will continue to benefit future generations of students while also minimizing tuition increases. For the coming academic year, U-Va.’s tuition increase of 1.5 percent for continuing in-state undergraduate students is the lowest of all public institutions within the commonwealth. U-Va. also reduced the four-year loan caps for all Virginia students. And, U-Va. continues to meet full need for all students, which allows the university to offer admission on a need-blind basis.
“These and other initiatives underscore the university’s commitment to remain one of the best values in public higher education as cited by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s and Princeton Review. The university is well-positioned to serve the higher education needs of the commonwealth, the nation and the world.”