Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Editorial: Tuition limbo at Virginia Tech
Prospective students do not know what tuition will be after the board of visitors failed to act in public.
From the RoundTable blog
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The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors met last week to set tuition rates for the fall. It failed to do so and, based on reports, seems to have violated state law along the way.
Tension exists between what university administrators say they need to maintain the quality of education and what the governor wants. School financial officials during the meeting presented a 4.7 percent increase to tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates. The governor has called for no more than an inflation adjustment of 2.7 percent.
Despite the General Assembly's provision for $230 million in new funding to higher education next year, public colleges and universities remain woefully underfunded.
At its meeting last week, the board went into closed session to discuss "salaries of actual employees," which is an exemption allowed under state open meetings law. Afterward, the board quickly adjourned without setting a tuition rate.
If the conversation had taken place in the open, Virginians might know what scenarios are in play. Because they took place behind closed doors, Virginians can only speculate whose salaries or jobs might be on the chopping block if the governor prevails. Surely the board did not discuss cutting programs or other expenses. The law contains no exemption for those topics.
Usually, a government body passes a resolution when it comes out of a closed meeting that certifies members discussed nothing improper. That vote must take place in public, but according to news coverage of last week's meeting, it did not. Rather, staff informed The Roanoke Times that it had taken place before the doors were opened.
We're willing to chalk that apparent violation up to sloppiness under stress. The board should do better, but we doubt it was nefarious.
The greater problem with tuition inaction is that young scholars to whom Tech has offered admission remain in the dark about what it would cost to attend. They must declare by Tuesday whether they will attend in the fall. The difference between a 2.7 percent and 4.7 percent increase is more than $200.
A breakdown in university leadership before the acceptance deadline erodes confidence. It would be hard to blame applicants for choosing a school that seems to have its act more together. The University of Virginia, for example, has already approved a 3.7 percent increase to tuition and fees for next year.