- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 20, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) Some of Virginia's public universities are calling for an end to a 5-year-old tuition freeze for in-state students as they prepare for an uncertain economic future.
"If we don't get some money to this university we are going to be facing challenge after challenge after challenge," said Warren Self, Radford University's interim vice president for academic affairs.
In 1996, Gov. George F. Allen enacted the tuition freeze to align tuition at Virginia's public universities with that of other states. At the time, Virginia's colleges were the second-most expensive in the nation.
Today, they rank 12th. The University of Virginia is now comparable with other flagship public universities. In 1998, the school was the eighth-most expensive for in-state students; it dropped to 18th by 2001.
But some college administrators say financial aid from the state is lagging at Virginia schools and it's time to allow them to recover some of the deficit through tuition increases.
Radford officials say they're already struggling to attract faculty because of the low salaries, and without a significant infusion of money, the university might have to curtail plans for enrollment growth.
"A tuition increase would allow us to address, at least in part, the faculty salary issue we're hearing so much about," Radford President Douglas Covington said.
Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said Tech's Board of Visitors are concerned about how the state will compensate for budget inadequacies in light of Gov. James S. Gilmore III's announcement last week that Virginia faces a revenue shortfall of $890 million.
"We've gotten tuition in Virginia under control to where it's competitive again," Mr. Hincker said. "If the state has got an $800 million shortfall, they are going to have to loosen the cords on the universities just a little bit."
At UVa., some deans are cutting back on spending in anticipation of budget cuts, school spokeswoman Carol Wood said.
Alan Merten, president of George Mason University, said there is no question the state's schools need more money.
"The money has got to come from somewhere," said Mr. Merten, whose school intends to boost its enrollment by 20 percent in the next six years. "I think that if people are going to stand up and say they're against raising tuition, then they should stand up and say they are in favor of providing the money from the state. They can't have it both ways."
A joint legislative subcommittee found last year that compared with other states' public universities, Virginia's were underfunded by $200 million, and a large budget shortfall would likely jeopardize state plans to increase state aid to schools.
Earlier this year, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia called the tuition freeze a success. According to one study, average tuition at a sampling of public universities nationwide rose 19.8 percent between the 1996-97 and 2000-01 school years, while average tuition at a sampling of Virginia's public schools declined 6.7 percent.
Although the council prepared its budget recommendation with the freeze intact, it also prepared some analyses should the freeze be lifted, council Chairman Carl Kelly said.

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