RICHMOND – The State Board for Community Colleges approved an increase to the tuition rate at Virginia’s Community Colleges that will take effect beginning in the spring 2010 semester for both in-state and out-of-state students. The increase of $7.30 per credit hour will increase the cost of a typical community college class by less than $22.
The board approved the tuition increase to allow the colleges, which have absorbed four state funding cuts since 2008 totaling $105 million, the necessary resources to serve the record-breaking number of students who are enrolled. Between the fall of 2006 and the fall of 2008, Virginia’s Community Colleges accounted for 71 percent of Virginia’s in-state undergraduate enrollment growth.
“If you look at the growth Virginia’s Community Colleges have experienced over just the last two years – just the growth – it is bigger than the undergraduate enrollment at VCU. Or to put it another way, it would be equal to adding together the total enrollments of Christopher Newport University, Longwood University, the University of Mary Washington, the Virginia Military Institute and Virginia State University,” said Gary Hancock, chairman of the State Board. “No responsible organization can serve that many people while undergoing round after round of budget cuts.”
“This is a tough decision we have to make. But it is the right decision,” said Jeff Mitchell, chairman of the State Board’s Budget and Finance Committee. “The more graduates our community colleges produce, the better positioned Virginia is for a myriad of opportunities. This is a small step in assuring that our community colleges can continue to do the job Virginia is asking them to do.”
The amount of money that the tuition increase is expected to generate will cover less than half of the state funding cuts imposed on Virginia’s Community Colleges in the current budget year. The new tuition rate leaves tuition and mandatory fees at Virginia’s Community Colleges at 38 percent of the average comparable costs to attend a Virginia public university.
Further, federal stimulus dollars, which have been used to soften the blow of state funding cuts, are set to expire in 2012, creating an additional funding gap of $60 million.
The pressure Virginia’s Community Colleges are facing in serving dramatically increasing enrollment with diminishing state funding is leading to an examination of the way the colleges operate. VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois announced earlier this week the creation of a reengineering taskforce that is charged with finding smarter, more efficient ways of operating Virginia’s Community Colleges.
“We want more Virginians to go to college and to graduate, and we have to find smarter, better ways to serve them,” said DuBois. “Moving forward, we have to look at more than simply seeking new revenue and cutting more programs. This taskforce will examine every part of our business model and ensure we are optimized and getting everything we can out of every dollar that we spend.”
In managing the state budget cuts, Virginia’s Community Colleges have taken actions that include reducing its labor force by 313 positions through layoffs and attrition, delaying essential facility maintenance, scaling back services like janitorial cleaning contracts and cutting back library resource purchases and operating hours. Adjunct instructors, who now account for three out of every five VCCS instructors, have been increasingly used to teach needed courses.