During the 2017 General Assembly session in Virginia, legislators took up multiple bills — filed by both Democrats and Republicans — to force state-supported colleges to reduce tuition.
But all those bills, among others related to higher education reform, met the same fate. Killed.
Why? The Roanoke Times took up that issue this week in its editorial pages here.
“Here’s the reason why legislative leaders don’t want to do anything: Colleges hold great sway in Richmond,” the editorial asserted. “Not enough sway to talk legislators into spending more money, mind you, but enough to dissuade them from interfering when colleges raise tuition. It’s a nice little arrangement. Legislators don’t have to trouble themselves with the really hard questions of just how much money the state should be providing, and colleges don’t have to answer hard, accounting questions about why costs are going up so much.”
Virginia now has the sixth-highest tuition in the country and over the last decade prices measured by the consumer price index have gone up 18 percent. Tuition and fees at state-supported Virginia colleges and universities, though, have gone up 74 percent.
“We have a legislature that prides itself on fiscal restraint, yet looks the other way while state colleges jack up tuition at more than four times the rate of inflation.”
“You could argue that this is simply the free market at work — supply-and-demand, all that, something students would learn in Economics 101 (assuming they manage to afford to enroll). But is it, really? When tuition is going up everywhere, students have little recourse but to take on more debt — or not be students. Nor is it a case of colleges simply responding to declining state funding. In-state tuition has gone up faster than state funding has gone down. Essentially, tuition has gone up $2 for every $1 cut in state funding. It looks like some micro-management may be exactly what we need.”
To read the complete editorial by The Roanoke Times, go here.
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