Tuition and fees: 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, providing student support services, maintaining buildings, ensuring safety and security, and many more. But just because you see it here on campus (e.g., new buildings) 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.

Examine, analyze and balance key variables

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 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 approximately two-thirds of the university’s E&G budget, while state funds make up 29 percent.


Table: Funding Sources for the Education and General Budget

Funding sourceAmountPercent of total
State General Funds $193,273,000.00 29%
Tuition and Fees $458,638,000.00 68%
Other $24,376,000.00 4%
Total E&G Budget $676,287,000.00 100%


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 the budget in December, and it continues into 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. 

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. In February/March of each year, the vice president for budget and finance presents the budget workshops to students and the VCU Board of Visitors. In 2019, for the first time, the BOV held an open comment period as part of their workshop to hear feedback from students and the public. In addition, the comment period was extended to an online format through April 26, ahead of the BOV's May meeting, when the board votes on the proposed budget plan.

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 May.

Support from the state, and our commitment to student success

The university’s instructional budget is primarily supported by tuition, fees and state appropriations. For FY 2020, the General Assembly proposed an incentive setting aside $57.5 million to Virginia colleges and universities that pledged not to increase tuition. Of that total, the General Assembly granted VCU $6.8 million in support of base operations and $3.4 million for student financial aid. The General Assembly made these investments, among the largest afforded to any public university in Virginia, because they recognize our service to Virginia residents. And that despite higher levels of financial need, our students perform at levels comparable to any university, including 4- and 6-year graduation rates that now exceed the national average. This generous support from the state allows VCU to maintain undergraduate tuition at $12,094 for Virginia residents and at $32,742 for nonresidents.

Review the university’s FY 2020 budget plan for more details.

How does VCU compare with other schools? 

VCU is a major research university with several high-cost programs, such as engineering, arts, medicine and biology (the university's largest major); it's tuition is commensurate with that of other Tier III doctoral research institutions. The State Council for Higher Education of Virginia provides a tool for you to compare VCU's in-state and out-of-state tuition and mandatory fees with other state schools in Virginia. Access the tool through SCHEV's website.