board of visitors meeting april 2023

The Board of Visitors is JMU's independent governing body, with members appointed by the state governor. 

JMU’s Board of Visitors approved tuition increases for the 2023-24 academic year with dissent from several board members at Friday’s meeting concerning making a decision before the Virginia state budget and JMU’s state funding are finalized.

For in-state undergraduate students, tuition and fees will be raised 3%, or $484. Out-of-state tuition will be raised 1.5%, or $638, while out-of-state fees will share the same increase as in state. For graduate students, each credit hour will increase by $16 for in-state and $21 for out-of-state students.

Although the motion passed, several members appointed to the board last year by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) voiced concerns about approving the increase at Friday’s meeting, especially because JMU’s fate in the Virginia state budget isn’t yet sealed. 

Suzanne Obenshain and Jack White both mentioned a hesitancy to decide on an increase before the Virginia General Assembly has finalized the state budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Obenshain said the 3% mark isn’t representative of the actual increase. Because JMU, like all Virginia universities, provided a one-time scholarship to cover last year’s 3% increase, Obenshain said families will now feel last year’s delayed increase in addition to this year’s.

After Obenshain mentioned her concerns at Thursday night’s Finance and Physical Development Committee meeting, the motion was amended to include a recognition that the state budget is uncertain and that the Executive Committee may reconvene to review adjustments to the increase if necessary.

“I still have angst moving forward because we don’t know what the state’s going to do,” Obenshain said at Friday’s meeting. “There are two months between now and when they [the state] have to do something, and we are supposed to be making decisions that are in the best interest of the parents and families of Virginia.”

Vice President for Finance and Administration Towana Moore presented the tuition and fees increase proposal to the board, saying she built it as conservatively as possible without knowing for certain what the state budget will look like. 

Board member John Lynch said the tuition should be set now to avoid that uncertainty trickling down to families. 

“They need to know the top number [for tuition costs] now,” Lynch said, especially as prospective students are deciding where to go to college. “If you tell them it’s uncertain till June, you’re gonna lose kids.”

Board of Visitors approves 2023-24 budget, property acquisitions

After a lengthy discussion on tuition, the board also approved JMU’s budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The university’s total operating budget comes in at $723.8 million, increasing 5.8% from last year.

In its education and general fund — things that use tuition or state funding — JMU will spend $271.4 million (67.3%) on instruction and academic support next year. JMU will also spend:

  • $58.1 million on institutional support, like fiscal operations and public relations

  • $45.1 million on physical plant (things like land, buildings and furniture)

  • $27.2 million on student services, like the Counseling Center, the Career Center, etc.

  • $1.7 million on public service, like seminars or projects that give back to the community

Auxiliary expenses — those that aren’t supported by tuition or state funding but rather by charging for the service provided — add up to $242.5 million, including about $53 million on dining. This category also includes debt, scholarships, maintenance and other services.

At the end of the meeting, the board approved the purchase of 449 Eastover Drive in Harrisonburg, a one-story residential building, for $279,500. It also approved a quitclaim deed for 11352 Sassafras Ridge in Markham, Virginia, a suburban building in an agricultural district in Fauquier County. Quitclaim deeds are low-protection, non-warranty deeds, according to Investopedia.

Reports to the Board

  • In the academic excellence committee meeting, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Heather Coltman responded to her condemnation by JMU’s Faculty Senate, which passed overwhelmingly. Coltman said she’s committed to share governance in a time when higher education is going through a “much needed and transformational change” after the pandemic, which she said has been “dynamic and disruptive.”

  • JMU had 27 people in its first cohort of BRidge to Madison, a program that allows waitlisted applicants to live on JMU’s campus while attending Blue Ridge Community College their first year to build their academic skills before starting classes at JMU.

  • Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne expects a decision from the NCAA by the end of April on JMU’s request for a waiver that would expedite the university’s two-year transition from the FCS to the FBS, Jeff Lynch, the athletics committee chair, said. This reclassification period is part of JMU’s move to the Sun Belt Conference last year.

  • President Jonathan Alger reported, again, increased applications to JMU. The university had 37,001 first-year applicants this year, a 17% increase from last year. Of those, Alger highlighted:

    • 46% are from out of state

    • 34.4% are underrepresented minorities

    • 21.5% are first-generation college students

  • Vice Provost for Research and Scholarship Anthony Tongen presented JMU’s Research Institution and Centers. He said as part of JMU’s reclassification as an R2 doctoral university, JMU is taking part in funding programs to expand its access to resources for research. He also said he’s working with other departments at JMU, like government relations, the Career Center and more. He specifically highlighted the African, African American and Diaspora Studies Center and the Center for Innovation in Early Childhood Development as departments JMU is targeting with more resources.

Contact Charlotte Matherly at For more JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter at @BreezeNewsJMU.