Frequently asked questions

Q: What’s the difference between tuition and fees?

A: Tuition dollars support the university’s instructional programs and their related support services, such as salaries and wages of faculty and staff and support costs for educational facilities. Tuition is determined by the student’s residency status, the number of credit hours for which the student is registered, the student’s program of study and the student’s classification level. In addition to tuition, the university relays various fees to students to help support university-related costs, such as campus and cultural events and activities, health care for students, recreational facilities, library and technology initiatives. Students majoring in specialized programs, such as arts, business or health sciences, will see additional fees on their bills. These fees help support special courses and programs associated with their major. For a full description of each fee, universitywide or major-specific, visit the Student Accounting website.

Q: What credit cards are accepted for payment of tuition and fees?

A: The Student Billing and Payment website links to the credit card processor, PayPath, to process Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover Card payments. If you choose to use a credit card to pay your bill, you will be assessed a convenience fee by PayPath of 2.75 percent of the payment amount (a minimum of $3) each time you make a payment. This convenience fee is nonrefundable.

Q: Why does VCU require the credit card holder to absorb the merchant fee when charging tuition and fees?

A: VCU had been paying the merchant’s fee charged by our credit card processor (generally around 2.75 percent) on every credit card transaction, costing the university approximately $1.3 million a year. The bulk of these charges are for tuition and fees payments. With all the budget cuts, VCU could no longer afford to pay these costs. VCU considered dropping the credit card payment option altogether; however, we recognized that many students and families appreciate the convenience of using a credit card. Therefore, we are letting the people who benefit from the convenience of the use of the credit card pay that fee to the credit card processor for tuition and fees.

Q: How was the 2.75 percent (minimum $3) service charge determined?

A: The credit card processor set their standard rate to apply to VCU.

Q: Do other colleges and universities have similar policies?

A: Yes, colleges and universities all over the country have made similar credit card payment and convenience fee policy changes. Other Virginia colleges and universities with this type of policy include Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, James Madison University, Christopher Newport University, George Mason University and the College of William & Mary.

Q: What is included on my bill from Student Accounting? What is not?

A: The bill you receive from Student Accounting will include charges for your tuition, mandatory fees, program fees, special fees, housing, dining and communications fee. The bill does not include parking fees, long-distance telephone charges or current library fines. Deposits for your VCUCard cannot be paid with your Student Accounting bill. The bill also should include credits for scholarships, grants and loans offered on your financial aid package. Questions concerning your financial aid award amounts should be referred to the Office of Financial Aid.

Q: Do I have to pay the activity and/or university fee if I do not use any of the facilities?

A: Yes. These fees are mandatory. The activity fee supports activities scheduled throughout the academic year such as concerts, plays, student organizations and publications. The university fee is used by the university to support Recreational Sports facilities, the University Student Commons, campus development, intercollegiate athletics and other programs.

Q: How will the dining options change for FY 2017-18?

A: VCU Dining Services is always working on improving menu selections and programs for dining plan holders. There are currently 23 locations across two campuses, and we are currently looking into bringing new guest restaurants to Market 810, expanding the Farmer’s Market we launched for the first time last fall and exploring new themed meal options for holidays and other special dates.

Q: Do tuition dollars fund land acquisition?

A: The needs addressed in the FY 2017-18 budget plan do not include funding for any new acquisitions. There are funds set aside for capital projects, and the university often depends on state funding for new academic buildings. All property purchases are carefully evaluated and planned to maximize the facilities available to students.

Q: How will the capital campaign impact the availability of financial assistance?

A: The Make It Real Campaign for VCU is the largest and most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. The campaign goal is $750 million, much of which will be instrumental in creating new scholarships for students.

Q: Do awarded scholarships accommodate the increase in tuition?

A: The university’s commitment to increase scholarship funding by $5 million is planned to address both needs related to the tuition increase and to assist new students. The allocation of the funds will be determined as students enroll.

Q: Why increase parking rates? Are there any plans to reduce the costs of parking?

A: Virginia requires that VCU auxiliary functions such as parking be self-supporting, including a requirement that units fund all repairs and capital improvements to facilities. The FY 2018 parking rates will increase on average 2.9 percent, or $6 to $10.50 per semester for student parking. Parking services, like all university offices, work each year to explore options, including technology and service delivery, to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Q: What will the budget cuts mean to the university community?

A: In light of Virginia’s budget cuts, and in the interest of keeping tuition and fee rates as low as possible, the university was faced with difficult choices for the upcoming budget year. Only the most critical needs ­ranging from faculty recruitment and financial aid to contractual increases for items such as software to the state-mandated salary increases were advanced. Other needs, such as funding for additional advising staff or meeting deferred maintenance needs were not funded. The net result is a $3.8 million required reduction that will need to be addressed by all university units. The university will make every effort to ensure that reductions are strategic and preserve the student experience as much as possible.

Q: When will I find out if tuition will go up again?

A: The VCU Board of Visitors typically reviews and approves the budget during April and May of each year. The BOV 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. The best way to stay informed is to regularly check your VCU email account for important messages, read the VCU TelegRAM and check this website. We will post updates to the News section.

Q: What are the FY 2018 mandatory student fees and what do they support?

A: VCU’s philosophy has been to minimize the number and amount of mandatory student fees. Mandatory fees are required for all full- and part-time students on both campuses. Full-time students pay a flat rate. Part-time students pay a per-credit-hour rate. The primary mandatory fee at VCU is the university fee, and it is used to support a number of activities at the university, including athletics, as more specifically set out below. There are several other fees that are charged for specific purposes. Those are set out below, as well. Full definitions of the fees and their uses can be found in the glossary of student fees at the end of Section III of the university’s budget plan at

FY 2017 mandatory student fees

University fee $1,845
Athletics $801
University strategic initiatives $128
Parking and transportation $77
Student union and recreational sports $543
Student services $296
Health service fee $206
Student activity fee $90
Technology fee $83
Library fee $60
Total fees $2,284
Nonresident capital outlay fee $660

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