20180126_MET_VCU_SL

VCU President Michael Rao gives his fifth state of the university address Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018.

Virginia Commonwealth University students are getting some tuition relief.

The Richmond university’s governing board on Friday voted to freeze tuition for students for the first time in nearly 20 years. The unanimous vote comes after the General Assembly included in its budget money for an across-the-state tuition freeze.

“We think it’s the right thing to do,” President Michael Rao said before the vote.

He added in a statement after the vote: “We are pleased to move forward with a budget that prioritizes our accessibility and helps ensure our students will have a nationally premier educational experience. This is possible in part because of increased investment in VCU from the commonwealth of Virginia.”

The university hasn’t had a tuition freeze since 2001.

State legislators this year set aside $57.5 million in incentives to keep Virginia’s public colleges from raising tuition, giving students and their families relief after a decade that saw tuition increase nearly 80 percent. VCU’s share of the state influx was $6.8 million.

“We did really well with the General Assembly,” said Chief Financial Officer Karol Gray.

This year, in-state students at Virginia’s public colleges are paying an average of 5 percent more in tuition and mandatory fees, according to state data. Tuition has gone up at least 4 percent every year since the Great Recession, a downturn that saw states across the U.S. slash education spending.

At VCU, tuition and mandatory fees have more than doubled since the 2008-09 school year, from $6,779 to $14,490 this year. Tuition at the Richmond school went up 6.4 percent this year alone.

“Students are happy with this,” Jacob Parcell, a member of the Student Budget Advisory Committee, told the board of visitors’ Finance, Budget and Investment Committee on Friday about the freeze.

The state budget freeze applied to just in-state students, but VCU opted to also freeze its out-of-state rate of $32,742.

“By extending a tuition freeze to all undergraduate students, the VCU Board has gone above and beyond the scope of the General Assembly's plan to promote affordability," said Stacie Gordon, the state advocacy manager for Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust.

The nonprofit has lobbied the General Assembly and colleges in recent years to slow the raises to tuition.

“I think the students are happy and the administrators are happy,” said Keith Parker, the vice rector of the board, after the vote.

While tuition is staying the same, mandatory fees are going up.

The $1.3 billion budget approved by the board - a 10 percent increase over this year’s - raises the cost of fees from $2,396 to $2,502 for in-state students and from $3,056 to $3,162 for those not from Virginia. The $106 increase in mandatory fees will pay for recreational sports facilities, career and counseling centers, and services in the University Student Commons, among other things.

Housing rates are going up 3 percent, a $191 increase to $6,555, while parking rates are climbing $20 to $464, a 4.5 percent increase.

With tuition staying the same and fees slightly increasing, the total cost of a base VCU education is going up 0.7 percent.

“We are pleased to move forward with a budget that prioritizes our accessibility and helps ensure our students will have a nationally premier educational experience. This is possible in part because of increased investment in VCU from the commonwealth of Virginia,”

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jmattingly@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6012

Twitter: @jmattingly306​

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