President Hemphill Proposes Tuition Freeze In Response to State’s $1.7 Million Offer

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By Jeremy Moser | jmoser9@radford.edu

Radford University President Dr. Brian Hemphill announced via email April 1, his proposition to not increase tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 school year.

“The accessibility and affordability of higher education have been and continue to be top priorities for our University,” Dr. Hemphill said.The recently passed state budget will divide $52.5 million among each Virginia university that agrees not to raise their in-state undergraduate tuition and fees this year.

Item 253.50 of the House budget bill, HB1700, states that the fund is for “In-State Undergraduate Affordability.” The budget passed the House of Delegates but has yet to be signed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

“The accessibility and affordability of higher education have been and continue to be top priorities for our University,” Dr. Hemphill said in the email. “I am proud to announce that Radford University is proposing to freeze tuition for in-state, undergraduate students and planning to accept the additional investment by the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Mark Lawrence, Rector of Radford University’s Board Members, echoed Dr. Hemphill’s intent to freeze tuition, stating in the email, “On behalf of the Board, I also want to echo President Hemphill’s words of appreciation to our elected leaders for the investment they are making in our students.”

May 10 is when the final decision will be made by the university’s board of visitors.

Should Radford vote to freeze their tuition and fee rates this year, this would amount to $1,659,000 in additional state funding.According to the Partners For College Affordability and Public Trust (PCA), tuition at Virginia state universities has risen an average of 83 percent in the last 10 years. Radford’s tuition has risen slightly less than the average at 72 percent – the eighth highest out of all 15 public four-year institutions in Virginia.

This budget bill covers both 2019 and 2020. It splits up the funding given to public institutions each year. If we take a look at the money allocated to Radford for both years, the university is set to receive $213,203,929 in 2019 and $237,568,265 in 2020. Adding these figures together gets us the total amount allocated to Radford by this budget bill: $450,772,194.

Should Radford vote to freeze their tuition and fee rates this year, this would amount to $1,659,000 in additional state funding.

The money will not be spread evenly; some Universities are set to receive more or less than others. According to PCA data, Virginia Commonwealth University has risen its tuition and fees by 114 percent in the last decade, the second-highest increase in the state. This budget is offering $6.7 million to VCU, the most out of this proposal.

In fact, according to the Commonwealth Times, VCU’s administration has already outlined a budget proposal that includes the first tuition freeze in several years. However, as with Radford, the final decision is still up to the university’s board of visitors.

The budget proposal also includes $8 million for the Virginia Community College System “in order to effectuate the goals of this item.”

PCA ranks colleges by their net price, the expected out-of-pocket cost of attendance after grants and scholarships are applied to that number. Despite having risen so much in the past decade, PCA ranks Radford’s net cost as the second-lowest in the state, at $13,573.

Student’s Reactions

Tannis Enos, a communications major, says she and many other students view Radford’s low tuition as a reason for attending the school in the first place.

“I live in Roanoke. Roanoke College is super expensive,” she said. “I like Radford because it’s cheap, but you’re getting so much out of it.”

She also pointed out that not raising tuition could help bring more new students to Radford.

“You can look at what the tuition was at one point and see that it’s gotten increasingly more [expensive],” she added. “When it freezes, maybe we’ll get more students to come in. I think it’s a good idea.”

“I understand why it has to rise,” he said. “If more students come, then they have to have more programs, and they have more reasons to have more money.”In Enos’s years at Radford, the tuition cost has risen significantly. Should Radford choose to freeze tuition, underclassmen, particularly first-year students, would stand to benefit the most.

Chris Osborn, a freshman mathematics major, agrees that Radford’s low tuition was a deciding factor in his decision to attend.

“I understand why it has to rise,” he said. “If more students come, then they have to have more programs, and they have more reasons to have more money.”

He also brought up inflation as a reason for some of the increase. However, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator, inflation can only account for 17.82 percent of the 72 percent increase at Radford in the last decade.

“For it to be rising that quickly … I don’t really see what the money is going towards,” Osborn said.

Photo Credit: (Osman Rana | Unsplash; Sharon McCutcheon | Unsplash)