On Tuesday, the JMU Board of Visitors held an open forum in the Festival Conference Board Room where it proposed its plan to raise tuition and comprehensive fees, which cover non-academic services, for the 2019-2020 school year. All students could be affected, as tuition could go up between zero to 4% for in-state students and 2.1-4% for out-of-state students. Additionally, comprehensive fees could raise 3-4% for students according to Charles King, the senior vice president of administration and finance.
This decision isn’t final yet, as the BoV will come to a final decision April 26. The forum was an open comment conference for students to voice their opinions and concerns on the plan to raise tuition, but no students commented. However, there have been over 60 submitted comments to the BoV about this plan. Comment submission has been open for two weeks and will close Friday.
Alongside King were Mike Thomas, member of the BoV and chair of the finance committee, and Maribeth Herod, director of the BoV. Thomas and Herod are working to construct a plan on whether or not to raise the tuition and comprehensive fees for students.
“The discussion about tuition is not a once a year activity,” Herod said. “It is almost a standing component in the finance committee. It is a regular topic that we try to stay in front of.”
According to King, tuition raises are a result of faculty and staff compensation, which are raises the General Assembly has mandated, new facilities operation and maintenance, scholarship and financial aid, operations and staffing, maintaining the student to faculty ratio of 16:1 and compensation services. King said, faculty and staff compensation would cost around $6.5 million, operation and facilities operation isn’t known, scholarship and financial aid would cost around $783,000, operations and staffing would cost around $1.5 million, maintaining the student to professor ratio of 16:1 would cost around $700,000 and comprehensive fees would cost around $1 million in compensation and then around another $1 million to continue.
Virginia’s General Assembly issued a compensation increase this year of 3% for faculty and administrative staff and 5% for classified staff. Even though the state of Virginia’s General Assembly issued the compensation, this doesn’t mean they’ll fund it, King said.
“Higher education is different in regards to other state agencies in terms of our ability to generate additional revenue beyond what the state gives us,” King said. “We have to generate 52% and the state only gives 48%.”
King said that for in-state students, a 4% increase in tuition would be the “worst case scenario.” This increase would only apply to juniors and seniors in the 2019 to 2020 school year, and only a 3% increase would occur for freshmen and sophomores due to the Madison Pledge, which states that tuition will go up by $1,000 for all new students coming to JMU in the Fall of 2018 and again by $1,000 for new students arriving in fall of 2019.
If there were to be no increase in tuition for in-state students, King said this would be in response to the General Assembly’s offer of $52 million for higher education to incentivize universities to maintain current costs. As a result, if JMU kept in-state tuition as is, the university would be awarded $6 million. If this were to happen, it would be the first time in nearly two decades that the undergraduate tuition at JMU didn’t increase.
Regarding tuition for out-of-state students, King said the 2.1% increase is ideal since the university has seen less students from out of state coming to JMU for a number of reasons, including cost of tuition. Yet, King knows that this may not be possible due to the fiscal demands of the university.
While comprehensive fees aren’t covered by the state according to King, he notes that these costs aren’t something that can be avoided. The comprehensive fees include free admission to sporting events, complementary appointments at the health center, free transportation on busses and free access to UREC.
Herod said that once Thomas and his finance committee team discuss the recommendation for tuition, they’ll then present a recommendation to the BoV. The full board will vote on and approve the recommendations that will be made on April 26.
“Having been a member of the board for a long time, the transparency that the university displays to the board, there is no one on that board that does not understand how this is put together nor is there anyone on the board who doesn’t get a say,” Thomas said. “We’ve tried very hard to make sure this is a differentiated institution.”
Contact Carley Welch at Welchcw@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.