Who picks up the tab?

Tuition increases have occurred annually since 2002. What’s a university to do?

Many across campus didn’t know that tuition had increased over the summer until they looked at their bill. 

With an 8.1 percent increase of $1,100 comprehensively for in-state students, this surprise created difficulties for many right as they were about to return to campus for the new semester.

CNU students responded in turn, with all major political organizations on campus co-signing a letter sent to President Trible expressing their dissatisfaction about the unannounced tuition increase. The Captain’s Log also recently featured an article which expressed a similar level of dissatisfaction.

However, this increase was not the only one of its kind, with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) announcing that every Virginian public institution increased tuition going into the 2018-19 year, with the lowest increase coming from the University of Virginia with an increase of 2.8 percent of $444 and the highest coming from James Madison University with a 10.5 percent increase of $1,138. 

This occurrence is also not a new trend, with SCHEV stating that tuition has increased every year since the 2002 fiscal year. The trend of increasing tuition across the state has gone on almost as many years as the students currently attending these institutions have been alive. 

This has led to an increased pressure from students and parents of those attending these institutions. In a personal interview, Trible expressed his care and consideration for these concerns. “We don’t want to turn away any students that want to come to CNU,” he stated.

This pressure is not only coming from students and parents, though. It is also coming from the Governor and the General Assembly, both of which have “strongly encouraged” public Universities to provide financial certainty and a limit of increases to less than three percent a year. 

These statements have all come together to form a new proposed guaranteed tuition plan for the 2019-2020 year.

The plan, which was proposed during the Oct. 10 Executive Board of Visitors meeting, proposes a guaranteed average annual tuition increase of 2.5 percent or less. Currently, under the six year plan, students can expect an average annual tuition increase of 4.9 percent. 

More specifically, the plan, which is proposed to start for the 2019-2020 school year, would entail a 6.7 percent increase of $990 for the first year, and a 1 percent increase of $160 every following year. This makes for an average of a 2.5 percent annual tuition increase. 

CNU’s proposed tuition plan

The Board was also excited as the proposed plan will be the first of its kind in Va. as it includes comprehensive fees in the guarantee. Other similar plans at institutions such as William and Mary, JMU and UVA do not include comprehensive fees in their guarantee. 

Trible acknowledges the importance of the plan, “A family coming to Christopher Newport knows, day one, what it will cost all four years.”

The plan is important for financial planning and it reflects a change requested by students of CNU. The proposal is also available for the public to view online at cnu.edu/whoweare/bov/proposals. This too displays a change requested by students who expressed dissatisfaction at the lack of acknowledgment of the University about the increase.

Rector Robert R. Hatten reiterated this, stating, “Every parent wants to know what it costs to educate their student and they don’t want a surprise every year — whoops, there’s another five thousand, three thousand dollars. It allows parents to plan, have certainty.” 

“Every parent wants to know what it costs to educate their student and they don’t want a surprise every year — whoops, there’s another five thousand, three thousand dollars. It allows parents to plan, have certainty.” 

Robert hatten

But many students were not as excited about this new concept.

Sophomore Emma Dixon expressed her lukewarm feelings about the proposal. “It’s good, but bad.” She explained, “We don’t want the increase, but at least they’re trying to be more consistent.”

Sophomore Anna Dorl also expressed her concerns. “It’s still a tuition increase.” 

The plan also left many wondering as to why this increase would still exist.

The Board spoke on this, with many pointing the finger to the lack of sufficient funding and timely reporting from the General Assembly.

According to SCHEV, “the Commonwealth established a funding policy goal of a 67 percent to 33 percent cost share between the state and students in 2004.” This goal has almost been flipped in the case of CNU, with Trible reporting that CNU was funded by the state at 37 percent. 

The University has also expressed concerns about the timely reporting of state budgets, recalling last year in which the budget did not arrive until late May when it was supposed to arrive in March.

This left many on the Board with similar sentiments to those expressed by students. 

So the question remains: who is going to pick up the tab? The University, the state or the students? At least at this moment, the students will know that they will. They will also know that the University is trying to ensure the affordability of that tab.

The proposed guaranteed tuition is slated to go into effect next year. Sophomores and juniors will have the ability to opt into the plan. 


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