Breaking Down College Tuition and Fees
Higher education is considered both a public and a private good and its cost is shared between the state, students, and their families...
Since the early 2000s, public higher education has seen a consistent shift in funding, and students and families are now responsible for a larger portion of the cost. A major reason for the shift happened a decade ago during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The financial implications of the Great Recession were wide-reaching and greatly affected the economic landscape of public higher education. State legislatures were forced to re-evaluate their priorities for the allocation of public resources and higher education administrators found themselves in a new budgetary environment. Additionally, the financial crisis affected students’ and their families’ ability to pay.
In the 1970s, the General Assembly set the cost-share policy to 70/30, meaning the state would aim to cover 70% of higher education-related expenses and students would be responsible for the other 30%. Overtime, the state’s share has declined, and the goal was adjusted to 67% in 2004. The state’s share of higher education funding is not a legislative mandate but a goal that the General Assembly seeks to reach each budget cycle and depending on the economic situation of the Commonwealth, state support can - and does - decrease. For the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) reports that the state’s share has dropped to just 45%, well below the legislature’s stated goal.
Declining state funding is one of the main reasons cited as a cause for the rising costs of higher education. SCHEV estimates that if the state share were aligned with the policy goal for the 2018-2019 academic year, tuition would be as much as $3,000 lower than current levels, or about 40% less.
Tuition and Fees
The cost of attending college does not include tuition alone but consists of a host of other fees, both Education and General (E&G) and non-E&G. So, what does it all mean? In its most recent Tuition and Fees report, SCHEV defines the most important terms related to college tuition and fees:
- Tuition and All Mandatory Fees - the sum of tuition and mandatory Education and General (E&G) fees and non-E&G fees.
- Tuition and Mandatory E&G Fees - student charges are used to support instruction and education-related activities, such as instruction, research and public service, academic support, student services, institutional support and the operation and maintenance of educational facilities. The Commonwealth provides funding to institutions to support this portion of costs for in-state students.
- Mandatory Non-E&G Fees - mandatory student charges are used to support non-instructional activities, such as student health services, athletics, recreational activities, campus transportation and capital debt service. These costs are not funded by the Commonwealth. Students and institutions substantially fund this portion of the cost.
- Room and Board - optional charges are used to support the dormitory and dining functions for students choosing to live on campus. Students living off campus are exempt from these charges.
- Total Charges - the sum of tuition, all mandatory fees and room and board. The total charges exclude other costs related to attending an institution, such as books and supplies, transportation, etc. It also does not include what a student may pay if the student receives financial aid (state, federal or local grants and scholarships)
- Net Price - the amount a student pays (the total cost, which includes all tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies and other expenses) to attend an institution after subtracting scholarships and grants the student receives.
Here’s what the average tuition and mandatory fees breakdown looks like at Virginia’s Colleges and Universities for the 2018-2019 Academic Year. What is not included is the net price because that will vary based on any financial aid, grants, loans, and other awards a student may receive as well additional expenses like books and supplies.
2018 – 2019 Tuition and Fees for Virginia Colleges and Universities
Tuition and Mandatory Education & General (E&G) fees will increase 5.7% or $466
- Four-year institutions – students will pay an average of $9,121, an increase of $507 (5.9%).
- Two-year institutions – VCCS students will pay an average of $4,606, an increase of $113 (2.5%)
- Richard Bland College students will pay an average of $6,100, an increase of $210 (3.6%)
Mandatory non-E&G fees will increase $146 (3.9%).
- Four-year institutions – students will pay an average of $3,874, an increase of $161 (3.9%).
- Two-year institutions – VCCS students will pay $14, a 0% increase
- Richard Bland College students will pay $2,100, an increase of $60 (2.9%)
Tuition and all mandatory fees for in-state undergraduates will increase 5.1% or $612 from the prior year, and students will pay an average of $12,545.
- Four-year institutions – students will pay an average of $13,370, an increase of $669 (5.3%).
- Two-year institutions – VCCS students will pay $4,620, an increase of $113 (2.5%)
- Richard Bland College students will pay $8,100, an increase of $270 (3.4%)
Room and board charges will average $10,633 at four-year institutions, an increase of $348 (3.5%).
Total charges for in-state undergraduates will increase 4.4% or $1,016 from the prior year, and students will pay an average of $24,003 for the 2018-19 academic year four-year institutions.
- Virginia undergraduate students will pay, on average, 55% of the cost of education, which is reflected as tuition and mandatory E&G fees.
For more information on the 2018-2019 tuition and fees at specific institutions, visit the SCHEV website.
Source: 2018-19 Tuition and Fees at State Supported Colleges and Universities