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Board holds tuition line despite budget shortfall

By David Nutter

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 28 - April 13, 1995

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors today approved a budget for the 1995-96 academic year that holds the line against excessive tuition increases, in spite of a $12.2-million budget shortfall.

The board held tuition increases for both in-state and out-of-state undergraduate students at 3 percent. For out-of-state students, the increase is well below the 7.5-percent maximum limit allowed by the state.

President Paul Torgersen also presented to the board a pledge the university was sending to all 11,000 students who received acceptance to the university for the coming school year. According to Torgersen, "the Virginia Tech Pledge enshrines our commitment to academic quality and cost containment. At Virginia Tech not only are we committed to holding down the cost of tuition, we are pledging that the preponderance of undergraduate classes will be taught by regular faculty, including our most distinguished faculty members."

Torgersen makes this commitment because of public concerns about the use of student-teaching assistance at research universities, like Virginia Tech. "At research universities, we train the next generation of professors. Our graduate-student teachers are highly qualified scholars in their own right. Yet, they comprise only 10 percent of all teaching at the undergraduate level," Torgersen said.

In outlining the causes of the budget shortfall, Minnis Ridenour, Virginia Tech's executive vice president, said that the university is faced with three distinct problems. The state reduced its General Fund support, the number of out-of-state students declined, and costs for fuel, insurance, and compliance with state and federal regulations increased. The 1994-96 biennial budget reduced General Fund appropriations to the university by $5.2 million; $4.9 million of this reduction comes in the 1995-96 fiscal year that begins on July 1. While the state cut these monies from Virginia Tech's budget as a direct appropriation, it continued the policy trend of pushing more of the financial burden to students and their families by authorizing the university to recoup those monies by increasing tuition revenues. However, because of other costs students must meet, the university has decided not to pass on these additional fees to the students. Thus, part of the budget is self-induced and will be addressed by cutting expenses.

Since 1990-91 Virginia Tech has lost an estimated 530 out-of-state students. The university has filled these slots with in-state students. That enrollment-mix change costs the university $3.6 million in lost revenue, because out-of-state students generate three dollars of tuition revenue for one dollar from each in-state student.

Because the decline in out-of-state enrollment has eroded over several years, the university has absorbed these costs.

Finally, several new mandates, initiatives, fixed-cost increases, and program initiatives without corresponding funding increases amount to about $4 million. These include salary increases for the classified staff, unfunded mandates to meet state and federal regulations, unavoidable cost increases for fuel and health insurance, and priority internal reallocations. The board approved the following tuition and fee schedule for the 1995-96 academic year. Tuition for in-state undergraduate students will increase $101 from $3,399 to $3,500. A mandatory comprehensive fee will rise $35 from $552 to $587.

Together, tuition and mandatory fees will rise 3.4 percent, or $3,951 to $4,087. "Our mandatory fees are still the lowest in the state," Ridenour said. Tuition for out-of-state undergraduate students will rise by $300 from $9,852 to $10,152. Together with the same mandatory comprehensive fee that all students pay, the cost rises from $10,404 to $10,739, a 3.2-percent increase. Room and board charges will remain relatively stable. Room charges will rise $14, from $1,308 to $1,322, a 1.1-percent rise. Board charges will remain the same at $1,798.