Tuition Increases are Painful, Especially in NOVA

Tuition Increases are Painful, Especially in NOVA

State colleges and Universities suffered a blow recently when the state budget presented them with a shortfall. While some schools are cutting facilities and programs, George Mason University chose to raise tuition instead..

Statewide, the budget cut amounted to $291 million. Four or five state schools have opted to raise tuition with GMU according to Paul Nardo, the communications director for the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia.

"One of the things you should look at is how you're going to reduce operating costs," he said, but added that seniors in high school this year should be aware.

"If you're a high school senior this year and applying to schools, you will feel it in the fall of 2002," he said.

Other schools around the state are raising tuition by nine percent while George Mason raised it sixteen percent..

Nardo also said that the colleges are trying not to layoff personnel as well.

"A lot of the institutions if not all, are trying not to have layoffs," Nardo said, pointing out the College of William and Mary recently dropped two masters degree programs in response to the situation.

According to information released by George Mason University media relations office, George Mason University's Board of Visitors has voted to raise tuition and fees by 16 percent for the 2002-2003 academic year." In-state undergraduate tuition is going from $3,792 to $4,416 per year, with grad students and law students all facing similar raises. At the same time, out-of-state tuition is only facing an increase of 8 percent.

These cuts were "made in response to an anticipated $14.7 million cut in state funds," it stated.

GMU freshman Charles Dunkle heard the talk around campus. He works to pay for some of his tuition.

"I thought I heard something about it in my government class. It hurts even worse when it comes out of your pocket," he said.

Caitlin Back is an out-of-state grad student at GMU, presently living in Reston. She has one year to go.

"There was an email going around discussing that there might be an increase. I'm going to finish no matter what," she said.

SPRINGFIELD RESIDENT LEXY EDWARDS is applying to Virginia Commonwealth University this year and plans on starting class in the fall. She wasn't aware of the tuition increase.

"My mom's looking into that. NOVA is my fall back," she said.

But Northern Virginia Community College is not exempt from the budgetary woes.

"Community colleges have also said they are going to go with the nine percent increase," said Amy Sebring, financial policy director at State Council of Higher Education of Virginia. Virginia currently ranks 43 out of 50 states in terms of community college tuition costs..

Reston resident, Kim Heidler, looked at another impact. Though she's not actively pursuing a degree, she does take classes at NOVA occasionally just to learn a particular subject. She recently took a sign language class.

"I had an interest in American sign language, it was just something to learn. The more tuition goes up, the less likely you'll have people just taking classes. There's no reason why people should stay in state," she said.

Fairfax resident Jason Groves, had professors at NOVA that are discussing the matter with their classes.

"A lot of the professors are actually taking classtime to go over the increase. The reason I chose to go to NOVA was not because I couldn't go somewhere else, it's because that's what I could afford," he said.

AT FAIRFAX HIGH SCHOOL, career center specialists see the students and parents more concerned about acceptance at this stage of the application process..

"Acceptance is what is on every parent and students mind right now," Judy Bracken said. She also pointed out the popularity of NOVA in the first year. Price is a concern..

"We have a lot of kids that go to NOVA and that will impact them," Bracken said..

It's the same at the career center at Lake Braddock Secondary School but some parents are alarmed. They are keeping an eye on developments in Richmond concerning the issue.

"Parents are beginning to question about it," said career center specialist Laurie Kobick.

Finance and maturity are still the number one reasons Kobick sees for students going to NOVA.

"Some kids are just not ready to go away to a four-year college," she said.

According to Nardo, 1993 was the high-water mark for Virginia tuitions. They fell as a result of some of former Governor Gilmore's programs but with this increase, they are up again but not quite to that level.

"It's cheaper now than it was eight or nine years ago," he said.

For Groves, this is the second time around with the tuition increase. He started at NOVA in 1993 but stopped shortly after because of the higher tuition. When prices dropped a few years later, he enrolled again. That was in the late 1990's.

"When they dropped tuition, that's when I started going back again," he said.

Bracken invited parents in for a coffee later in April.

"It will be interesting to see what parents will be talking about," she said.

At last look, 39 of the 50 states were facing budget difficulties and in California, the $12 billion budget cuts were passed down mid year.

"They actually hiked tuition mid-year," Sebring said.