Virginia Legislators Stand Up for Affordable Tuition – Affordable College Tuition
Virginia Legislators Stand Up for Affordable Tuition

The gears of change are beginning to turn toward better accountability, affordability and transparency in how Virginia public colleges and universities make financial decisions that affect tuition.

Virginia lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have come together in an effort to address the rising cost of higher education in the Old Dominion. More than a dozen Republican and Democratic legislators from both houses took a stand on Jan. 17, announcing a series of proposed laws aimed at addressing the skyrocketing price of tuition to attend the state’s public colleges and universities. Several proposed bills also seek to address the increasing difficulty in-state students have in accessing public colleges.

“We need to get the cost of tuition back under control,” state Sen. Bill DeSteph Jr. (R-Virginia Beach) told media outlets at a press conference announcing the effort.

According to the Daily Progress, State Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) reminded his fellow lawmakers and higher education administrators that they don’t own public colleges and universities, “it’s the citizens of Virginia that own the state colleges and universities.”

Between them, the legislators have introduced more than 15 bills addressing tuition and spending in the state’s public institutions of higher education. Here’s a rundown of each proposed bill and its author:

Access & Affordability                     

Del. David Albo (R-Springfield); HB1410 – restricts financial aid to out-of-state students; limits out-of-state enrollment

Del. Timothy Hugo (R-Centreville); HB1886 – limits out-of-state enrollment to 25 percent

Del. Timothy Hugo (R-Centreville); HB1887 – restricts financial aid to out-of-state students

Sen. Bill DeSteph Jr. (R-Virginia Beach); SB985 – caps tuition increases to the consumer price index

Sen. Bill DeSteph Jr. (R-Virginia Beach); SB986 – caps tuition increases to the national average wage index

Sen. Bill DeSteph Jr. (R-Virginia Beach); SB987 – caps tuition increases to the rise in median household income

Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R-Midlothian); SB1087 – caps tuition at two times the consumer price index

Sen. J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax); SB1379 – requires a five year tuition reduction if the institution’s surpluses exceed 150 percent of the academic year budget.

Transparency

Sen. J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax); SB931 – eliminates presidential working paper exemption

Sen. J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax); SB1376 – requires a 30-day notice of tuition increases and a public comment period

Sen. J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax); SB1436 – extends FOIA to university and college foundations

Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon); SB1103 – civil penalty for falsely certifying the legality of closed meetings

Governance

Del. R. Steve Landes (R-Verona); HB1402 – requires officers and committee chairs of college/university boards to be Virginia residents

Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach); HB1892 – requires independent audit of financial statements and capital project accounts

Sen. Bill DeSteph Jr. (R-Virginia Beach); SB955 – renames Board of Visitors, “Board of Trustees”

Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon); SB907 – requires officers and committee chairs of college/university boards to be Virginia residents

Sen. Bill DeSteph Jr. (R-Virginia Beach); SB1353 – requires that the primary duty of governing boards public institutions of higher education be to the Commonwealth

According to the Daily Progress, Petersen, whose proposed bills tackle college spending and tuition hikes, wants to see institutions of higher education stay focused on their core mission of educating the next generation of young adults, rather than growing their budgets.

“The purpose of the university is not to aggregate wealth,” Petersen said at the press conference. “It’s rather to train people, educate young people, and when it has a surplus like that it has to return money.”

With the momentum underway, the time to act is now. Keep the excitement going and write your state legislator in support of these bills to ensure higher education in Virginia’s public colleges and universities is affordable and accessible to all the state’s residents!

To look up your legislator go to www.virginia.gov/services/whos-my-legislator/.