Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
As the price of college rises, Virginia students are paying for more than education.
Monday, June 17, 2013
The escalating cost of a college education strains family finances and saddles too many students with enormous debt as they enter the working world. But how much of that cost is directly related to course instruction, and how much comes from amenities that enrich the college experience and help schools win marketing battles against their peers?
With concerns about access and affordability ringing in their ears, state lawmakers last year directed the General Assembly’s watchdog agency to look behind the price tags at Virginia’s public colleges and identify opportunities to reduce costs. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission staff has found that the biggest drivers of spending increases in the past two decades were not tied directly to instruction, but instead were student-funded “auxiliary enterprises” such as housing, dining and intercollegiate athletics.
The new report is the first of five that JLARC will produce on the subject over the next year. The staff’s initial, broad overview tells legislators some things they already should know. On a per-student basis, state support for higher education has declined by 22 percent since the 1991-92 academic year. Tuition and fees have increased by 217 percent over the same period, averaging $9,452 for the 2011-12 term. College costs have increased at a much faster rate than income, causing student borrowing to nearly triple.
About one-third of total spending at state colleges goes toward direct instructional costs such as faculty salaries and benefits and operation and maintenance of academic buildings, according to a JLARC staff report released last Monday. The remaining two-thirds go toward a variety of categories, including research and academic support functions. But auxiliary services have been the largest contributor to spending increases at Virginia’s four-year schools, according to the JLARC report.
Students are charged mandatory fees for a variety of non-educational services and programs, including health care, transportation, recreational facilities and intercollegiate athletics. At the state’s six research universities, auxiliary enterprise spending increased by an average of $821 per student on an inflation-adjusted basis over the last decade, while student financial aid decreased by $379. At the other nine four-year schools, auxiliary spending increased by $906 per student in the past 10 years.
Virginia Tech’s $1,673 comprehensive fee was the lowest in the state for the 2012-13 year, according to the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia.
The spending patterns at Virginia’s public colleges are not out of line with national trends. But at a time when state policymakers are pushing schools to enroll more Virginia students, produce more graduates in high-demand fields and remain affordable, some non-research institutions might benefit themselves and their students by re-evaluating their missions and their fee structures. Students who shop for a school without caring whether it has a Division 1 athletic program or top-of-the-line recreation facilities should be able to get a quality education without having to pay for those amenities.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday