Candidate for Virginia Governor Calls for College Tuition Freeze – Affordable College Tuition
Candidate for Virginia Governor Calls for College Tuition Freeze

RICHMOND, Va. – State Senator Frank Wagner (R) of Virginia Beach, on the final day of the General Assembly’s 2017 session in which multiple higher education reform bills were introduced and failed, called on elected officials to freeze the cost of tuition and fees at state funded schools next year.

“Virginia needs to change our policies,” Wagner, who is also running for governor in the November election, said on the Senate floor. “Once we get our revenues climbing again because of a better economy, we should freeze tuition and fees; ensuring that tuition and fees will not increase during the four years a class is in school.”

Wagner’s speech marked the first time a statewide candidate made a Virginia General Assembly Senate floor speech citing facts, figures and the tuition increases at specific schools as evidence to support higher education reform in the Commonwealth.

“For Virginians, the pain is real when it comes to the skyrocketing cost of higher education in our state schools,” said Helen Dragas, Partners 4 Affordable Excellence @EDU board chair. “We applaud Senator Wagner for giving a voice to Virginia families struggling to afford a college degree.”

The key points of Wagner’s speech (included it its entirety below) include the following:

• In the last decade, tuition and fees at the University of Virginia, Christopher Newport University, The College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University have tripled, all while the Consumer Price Index has only increased 35 percent and the Higher Education Price Index only climbed 53 percent.
• The rising cost of higher education in Virginia is unsustainable for Virginia students, their families and society as a whole.
• Virginia needs to change its policies in the 2018 General Assembly session and freeze tuition and fees when state revenues rebound.
• Thereafter, state schools should tie any future tuition increases to the Consumer Price Index or the National Wage Average Index to better align a student’s ability to afford the cost of college.
• Prohibit the use of tuition revenue from an in-state student to provide assistance to other students.

“We have to stop balancing the budget on the backs of Virginia’s college students,” Wagner said. “We have to get serious about keeping the costs of college affordable for Virginia’s families so that when college students graduate they have an opportunity to improve their lives without the yoke of massive debt holding them back. I sincerely hope that next year we will have the ability and the wisdom to adopt these new policies.”

For more information, contact Stephanie Heinatz at 757.713.2199 or stephanie@consociatemedia.com.

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Mr. President,

I rise to discuss a national epidemic with real impacts here in Virginia.

We’ve all heard the stories of how rising tuition costs at colleges and universities are having a profound impact on college students and their families. Our nation’s young people have accumulated $1 TRILLION in student loan debt. How on earth will they ever pay it back?

How could this happen? Well, there was an unfortunate convergence of events. The economic collapse of the housing industry in 2008, the worst-ever post-recession economic recovery, the national GDP not going above three percent for more than eight years, persistently stagnant wages and state legislatures across the country allowing the cost of tuition, room and board to rise unabated since the turn of century. All of these facts converge to bring us to where we are today.

Here in Virginia the statistics are shocking. In the last decade, tuition and fees at UVA, CNU, and VCU have more than doubled, and at W&M has tripled.

Since the 2001-2002 academic year, the Consumer Price Index has increased 35 percent and the Higher Education Price Index has increased 53 percent.

But over this same time W&M tuition and fees increased 344.2 percent during the same period. 344 percent.

At Virginia Tech, the percentage increase was 248 percent. Northern Virginia Community College, 350 percent.

This path is unsustainable for Virginia students and their families and for society as a whole.

Virginia needs to change our policies. Once we get our revenues climbing again because of a better economy, we should freeze tuition and fees; ensuring that tuition and fees will not increase during the four years a class is in school.

And when setting tuition for each entering class, the maximum increase in tuition should be tied to the
Consumer Price Index or the National Wage Average Index. There has to be some nexus between what our colleges and universities need to operate and what is happening in the real world – in the economy.

Furthermore, we should prohibit the use of tuition revenue from an in-state student to provide financial assistance to an in-state or out-of-state student and we should prohibit the use of state debt proceeds or state tax revenues towards financial assistance for out-of-state students.

This year’s revenue shortfall made a tuition cap or freeze impossible. But as the economic recovery goes forward and new tax revenues are generated a significant portion of these revenues should be set aside for colleges and universities so we can reduce the burden on the students.

We have to stop balancing the budget on the backs of Virginia’s college students. The nation student debt tops one trillion dollars. We have to get serious about keeping the costs of college affordable for Virginia’s families so that when college students graduate they have an opportunity to improve their lives without the yoke of massive debt holding them back. I sincerely hope that next year we will have the ability and the wisdom to adopt these new policies.

Thank you, Mr. President.