How is my tuition determined?

Tuition and fees are the financial costs that students pay to attend the university. They help cover the costs of many aspects of life at Virginia Commonwealth University that directly affect the success of students: paying professors, student support services, maintaining buildings, safety and security, and many more. But just because you see it here on campus (e.g., new buildings), it doesn’t mean the university used your tuition and fees to buy it. We’ve listed several key facts to help you understand how tuition and fees are determined at VCU.

It’s a balancing act

First and foremost, VCU’s administration and Board of Visitors are thinking about what it takes to offer students the very best education possible. To do this, they examine and balance significant variables that affect the university’s instructional budget, officially called the Educational and General (E&G) Programs Budget:

  • Projected enrollment
  • Required resources (e.g., faculty needed to teach your courses, changed costs for utilities, fringe benefits for faculty and staff, IT contracts)
  • Revenues from the state

The amount of tuition is determined based on this analysis.

Currently, tuition and fees make up over two thirds of the university’s E&G budget while state funds make up approximately 28 percent.

There’s an approval process

Traditionally, the final part of the university’s budget process for the upcoming academic year begins when the governor announces his budget in December and continues to January when the Virginia General Assembly convenes. It’s not until later in the spring, typically, when the final budget for the commonwealth is approved that final allocations for institutions are known. For the upcoming year, FY 2017-18, the approved state budget included in state support for public colleges and universities. The approved funding for VCU from the commonwealth stands at $174.0 million for the instructional budget in FY 2017-18 or a cut of 3.2 percent.

Three university committees provide input to the budget process :the University Budget Advisory Committee, the Student Budget Advisory Committee and the Budget and Strategic Planning Committee. UBAC membership includes academic leadership, faculty and staff representatives, and is co-chaired by the vice president for finance and budget and the provost. This past year VCU established the Student Budget Advisory Committee to increase student involvement in the budget planning process. The Budget and Strategic Planning Committee meets monthly to consider budgetary issues and is responsible for final recommendation to the University Cabinet. The final university budget, which includes the rates for tuition and fees for the following academic year, is approved by the VCU Board of Visitors in mid May.

Why does tuition increase?

The university’s instructional budget is primarily supported by tuition, fees and state appropriations. Deep declines in state support for higher education have shifted the funding burden to students and their families. As VCU’s enrollment significantly increased over the past 15 years, state support dramatically declined -- shifting the funding burden to students and their families. In 2001, almost two-thirds of the budget came from state funds; today, state support has declined to less than 30 percent.

VCU also faces increases in unavoidable costs such as commitments for academic program improvements and teaching and research faculty professional advancement, and utilities and building and grounds maintenance.

VCU’s commitment to student success drives budgeting decisions

Despite the funding limitations the university has faced, VCU continues to move forward guided by the goals set forth in Quest for Distinction. The university’s success in improving the four and six-year graduation rates are attributed to strategic investments increasing financial aid (institutional and externally funded), targeting advising, and increasing faculty recruitment. Continued progress in these areas is a priority in the budget for the upcoming year despite reductions in state funding.

To support these commitments, as well as addressing mandatory and unavoidable costs, the university will increase tuition and fees 3.8 percent for resident undergraduate students (including a 0 percent increase for in-state undergraduate mandatory fees). The additional resources will provide new funding of more than $5 million for student financial aid and more than $4 million for 26 faculty hires and faculty promotions. Additionally, this budget makes investments in the university’s infrastructure, including VCU Libraries ($.5 million), facilities and improved safety, compliance and administrative infrastructure ($1.3 million). The budget includes funding of $7.5 million for VCU’s share of state mandated pay and fringe benefit increases.

To offset these costs, the university will also implement a required reduction in departmental spending of $3.8 million.

Review the university’s FY 2018 budget plan [PDF] for more details.

Keeping you and your family informed

The VCU Board of Visitors and the university’s administration will always inform VCU students and families of any pending increases in tuition and fees as soon as that information is available. This past year, VCU held a tuition information session with a live stream to present the proposed budget and tuition for 2017-18. We curated and posted the questions and answers discussed at the information session here.

The best way to stay informed is to regularly check your VCU email account for important messages and read the VCU TelegRAM. We will post updates to the “What’s New for Me?” section.