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2009 August 26 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Federal Stimulus Funds Allow Va. To Limit Tuition Hike to 5 Percent

By ZINIE CHEN SAMPSON, Associated Press Writer

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Federal stimulus funds allocated to Virginia’s public colleges and universities helped keep the average increase in tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates to about 5 percent for the upcoming school year.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia released a report showing that the average annual in-state tuition and all mandatory fees at Virginia’s 15 four-year schools is $7,984, up 5.3 percent from 2008-09.

In-state students at community colleges will see their tuition and mandatory fees rise 7.6 percent, to $2,781. Richard Bland College, the state’s junior college, is increasing its tuition and fees 1.5 percent, to $3,676.

The state’s public higher-education institutions are receiving $126.7 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the 2010 fiscal year — which started July 1 — to offset planned state funding cuts and to mitigate tuition increases during the recession. Virginia Tech, for example, boosted 2009-10 tuition by 5 percent, compared to a proposed 10.8 percent increase absent the federal funding.

The General Assembly cut state higher-education funding by an average of 5 percent for the 2008 fiscal year, and by another 14 percent system-wide for the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, SCHEV said, and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has directed all state agencies to propose further cuts in anticipation of future revenue shortfalls.

The tuition increase will be the lowest annual increase since the 2001-02 school year, but SCHEV notes that the stimulus money is a one-time infusion. Last year, in-state tuition and fees at four-year schools rose by more than 7 percent, following a 7 percent increase the previous year.

For 2009-10, average room and board will cost in-state undergraduates at four-year schools an average of $7,658, 5.2 percent more than last year. The total average price of a year of college for an in-state undergraduate is $15,642, up 5.2 percent.

Out-of-state undergraduates at Virginia’s four-year schools will pay an average of $21,173 for tuition and all mandatory fees in the upcoming school year, up about 5.8 percent from $20,020. Including room and board, their total average price will be $28,832.

The report noted that students and their families continue to bear an increasing share of the cost of their education.

Non-state revenue — mostly from tuition payments — now accounts for 59 percent of Virginia’s higher-education funding, and a student now is expected to cover 38 percent of his college costs, minus any financial aid.

At the same time, Virginia has had to discontinue its Tuition Moderation Incentive Fund for the 2010 fiscal year. The program was established in 2008 as an attempt to keep college affordable, and provided additional state funds to schools that limited tuition increases to specified percentages.

The total cost of college, including tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, for an average in-state student at a four-year public school is now estimated to take up 40.2 percent of per-capita disposable income — the highest figure since 1994-95, SCHEV said. Virginians’ per-capita disposable income is projected to grow by about 4.5 percent next year, more slowly than the average price increase at a four-year college.

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