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UMW president: Tuition increases ‘painful’

ONLINE EXTRA:Full text of UMW tuition increase announcement/

It will cost students 3.8 percent more to attend the University of Mary Washington during the next academic year due to increases in tuition and room and board approved by the board of visitors.

On Thursday, the board approved a tuition increase of 4.5 percent, adding $696 to in-state fees and $1,252 to out-of-state fees, the same day that Gov. Bob McDonnell sent a letter to state colleges urging them to limit future tuition increases.

“He told us to hold the line, and I believe we did,” said Rector Pamela White.

Last year, the board approved a 4.7 percent tuition increase for in-state students and 4.8 percent for out-of-state students.

The board already agreed to increase housing costs by 4 percent in the fall and board costs, which cover meal plans, by 2 percent.

“Governor McDonnell recognizes that each institution has a different mission and goals that must be taken into account when making decisions regarding tuition,” said McDonnell’s spokesman, Paul Logan. “The purpose of his letter and his direct communications with presidents and board members was to make sure that every effort was made to limit increases. He asked them to do the same last year, and we saw the lowest tuition increases statewide in a decade.”

The University of Virginia board approved similar increases in tuition and fees of 3.8 percent for in-state undergraduates and 4.8 percent for out-of-state students Thursday.

UMW President Rick Hurley called the increases painful.

“This decision took a long time to get to,” he said. “A large chunk of it is to cover mandated cost increases.”

These state-mandated increases include raises for faculty and staff, improvement projects and an 18 percent projected increase in health care premiums.

Tuition for the 2012–13 school year was $4,686 for in-state students and $17,000 for out-of-state students. But adding board, housing and fees, the actual costs were closer to $18,086 for in-state students and $30,400 for out-of-state students.

The proposed $55 million 2013–14 UMW budget has a shortfall of $1.5 million.

The tuition and fees increase covers most of the shortfall.

The largest new initiative in the budget is a proposed $500,000 increase to the admissions department for staffing, software, recruiting and marketing. The school is hoping to court out-of-state students, a demographic that has dropped in recent years.

This drop has led to a decrease in available funds, said Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance.

The tuition loss from the drop of 436 students since the 2007–08 school year totals about $5.4 million. Pearce said UMW lost about 50 out-of-state students just last fall.

The school will give faculty a 3 percent salary increase and other full-time staff a 2 percent salary increase, as mandated by the state.

UMW is also seeking to establish an operating and maintenance pool for the technology convergence center that is currently under construction.

Also budgeted are initiatives to increase faculty sabbaticals from the current 12 to 13 per year, fund a program offering domain names to all students and staff called “Domain of One’s Own,” enhance the orientation program, add two positions in Counseling and Psychological Services and convert two adjunct positions to full-time professorships.

“While the board voted to increase tuition by 4.5 percent, I am gratified that we were able to hold the line on overall student cost hikes at less than 4 percent,” White said.

She said in a press release that the tuition increase was necessary in order for UMW to maintain its standards of excellence, as affirmed by an accreditation site visit this week from a team representing the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

“The team was most complimentary about their interactions with UMW’s faculty, staff and students,” White said. “And they noted that Virginia is very fortunate to have such a great institution as the University of Mary Washington.”

During the on-site visit, the SACS team had just three recommendations for UMW. During the last re-accreditation process in 2003, they had 17 recommendations.

The first two recommendations urge UMW to set a timeline for expanding its first-year seminar program aimed at freshmen and to specify who will lead that initiative.

The third recommendation was to clearly define what UMW’s research requirements are for faculty and undergraduates.

Hurley said he is “extremely optimistic” about the re-accreditation.

SACS will make its final decision in December.

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