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Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.

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McDonnell asks colleges to hold down tuition

Gov. Bob McDonnell is asking state colleges and universities to keep tuition hikes to a minimum.

In a letter to college presidents last Friday, McDonnell asked them to hold in-state tuition increases for this fall and beyond to the annual increase in the consumer price index. He noted that the state budget passed by the legislature last week has $230 million in additional funding for higher education institutions.

According to a release from McDonnell’s office, average in-state tuition for the 2011-12 school year at Virginia colleges rose 9.7 percent over the year before. The CPI for the past 12 months is 2.7 percent. The release said that the University of Virginia has already announced a tuition increase of 3.7 percent.

In the letter to the college presidents, McDonnell said Virginia students have seen double-digit tuition hikes annually, on average, for the past decade.

“This trend is unacceptable and cannot continue,” he wrote. “I, therefore, ask that you endeavor to keep in-state tuition increases for the fall semester and beyond to the increase in the Consumer Price Index, because we cannot let dramatic price increases be a deterrent to higher education for all qualified and motivated Virginians.”

McDonnell also wrote that he understands colleges are still recovering from state education funding cuts that began in 2007. But, he said, more “internal operating efficiencies” and cost savings on colleges’ parts could help get them more state funding.

“It is my plan to continue to make new investments in higher education in future budgets as the economy improves. The more higher education institutions moderate in-state tuition and fee growth, the more likely it will be that I can secure additional state funding from the legislature,” McDonnell wrote. “Keeping a lid on tuition increases is in the best interest of our students and families, as well as the future of our Commonwealth.”

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