- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) — Seniors at Virginias public colleges next year will spend less on tuition and fees than they did during their freshman year.
The average tuition and mandatory instructional fees for the coming school year at the states four-year colleges is $3,883, compared to $4,217 for 1998-99, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginias 2001-02 Tuition and Fee Report.
The council voted Wednesday to approve the plan, which increases the total cost of education at the colleges by 2.4 percent, less than the rate of inflation.
Tuition and mandatory instructional fees, such as lab fees, have been frozen for several years and were reduced by 20 percent in 1999-2000, said Amy Sebring, the councils finance-policy director. At that time, the average tuition and fees dropped from $4,217 to $3,720.
But mandatory noninstructional fees have continued to rise. These fees, which go toward building projects such as new classrooms or athletic facilities, have increased by 5.7 percent this year, Miss Sebring said.
Despite the increase, students still pay less now than they did three years ago.
"Virginia institutions in the 90s felt they were pricing themselves out of the market," Miss Sebring said. "As the gap between public and private universities lessened, students had less incentive to stay in the state."
The 1999-2000 rollback and current freeze provide that incentive, she said.
"It makes education more affordable," she said. "For Virginia families, its nice to know checks arent getting bigger every year."
The low tuition will make Virginias public colleges more competitive and encourage growth, Miss Sebring said. Enrollment is expected to grow by more than 10,000 students during the next five years, according to recent projections by the council.
Michael Fisher of Roanoke said he was not aware of any tuition changes at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he will be a senior in the fall.
"It doesnt feel like Im paying any less," said Mr. Fisher, 21.
"They do so many renovations on this campus that the other fees such as technology fees and activity fees always seem to go up."
Bopta Lim, 20, of Richmond, also a senior-to-be at VCU, said he was surprised to learn tuition is less expensive now than it was three years ago.
"If I hadnt learned about it, I probably wouldnt spend any more. Now I will."

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