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Facts regarding VCU budget and tuition presentation

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

To the VCU Community,

On Friday, May 12, the VCU Board of Visitors is scheduled to decide and vote on a budget for the 2017-18 academic year. This budget will set the tuition and mandatory fees for the upcoming year.

There is some inaccurate information surrounding the budget process that is creating a great deal of confusion. Here are some facts to help clarify the process and what thus far has been presented to the Board of Visitors and students. Many of these facts and supporting data can be found in a presentation provided to the Board of Visitors and to students in April: The presentation can be found online: http://www.president.vcu.edu/pdfs/agendas/April_6,_2017_BOARD_OF_VISITORS_-_BUDGET_DISCUSSION.pdf

Rumor: The vice president of finance and budget is recommending that the VCU Board of Visitors approve a 5.3 percent increase to tuition and mandatory fees.

Clarification: To address an $8 million budget cut from the state, the vice president for finance and budget presented an array of tuition and fee options with increases ranging from 2.4 percent to 5.3 percent. These percentages translate to increases of $320 to $696 per year. There was no official recommendation to the board.

Rumor: Students have been shut out of the process.

Clarification: There were more opportunities for student participation in this year’s budget process than ever before. At the beginning of this academic year, through several university-wide email and social media communications, students were invited to join a Student Budget Advisory Group. Eighteen students turned out for the first 90-minute session on Sept. 28. Additional meetings took place Nov. 14 and Feb. 7. Students also took part in a half-day, open-to-the-public Board of Visitors workshop on April 6. A widely publicized tuition information session for students was held on Tuesday, April 11. At this session, the vice president for finance and budget used the same Board of Visitors workshop presentation to provide an overview of VCU's budget and to discuss the process for determining tuition for the upcoming academic year. Representatives from the divisions of Student Affairs, Strategic Enrollment Management and the Office of Finance and Budget answered questions from students in the audience as well as from those watching on a live-stream of the session, who submitted their questions via Twitter.

Rumor: Students and faculty are not represented on the Board of Visitors.

Clarification: The governor of Virginia appoints Board of Visitors members. Each appointed member is eligible to serve for two consecutive terms of four years only. There are student, staff and faculty representatives that serve as non-voting members to the board. 

Students are invited to participate in an open application process to serve on the board. All applications are reviewed through a selection process and finalists are presented to the board for approval.

Rumor: The Board of Visitors deliberately scheduled this meeting during graduation to minimize public input.

Clarification: VCU Commencement is Saturday, May 13. Historically, the Board holds its May meeting the day before Commencement so that out-of-town Board members may attend the ceremonies. In April there was a budget workshop open to the public as well as an information session for students.

Rumor: Budget and tuition breakdown isn’t transparent.

Clarification: For several years, the university has maintained the myTuition website, mytution.vcu.edu, to provide an overview and breakdown of budget and tuition. In addition, the site includes a link to the approved budget book. Each year in April, the university holds an open-to-the-public budget workshop for the Board of Visitors. In addition, this year, VCU hosted an information session for students. This session was also live-streamed. The workshop and information session included the same presentation to review specific details about the university’s budget, unavoidable costs, highest priority needs and an array of tuition scenarios that would address an $8 million budget cut from the state.

Rumor: VCU is proposing a 3 percent raise for administrators.

Clarification: The state has mandated a 3 percent pay raise for staff and a 2 percent raise for faculty. VCU is adding 1 percent so faculty will be eligible for 3 percent as well. At VCU, employees — faculty and staff — are eligible for this raise based on work performance. This is a partially funded mandate, requiring VCU to fund about half of the cost. A portion of tuition will support this increase.   

Rumor: One-third of VCU faculty are adjuncts.

Clarification: 11 percent of VCU faculty are adjuncts.