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W&M Board of Visitors talks tuition, budget cuts in final meeting of academic year

Contact Reporterwwright@vagazette.com

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the amount of tuition in-state and out-of-state students will pay starting in the next academic year.

All of Virginia's public institutions of higher education have seen cuts to their budget as the state grapples with a decrease in revenue. William and Mary is looking at a five percent cut to its budget heading into the next fiscal year.

The college's Board of Visitors met on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week to discuss some of the school's most pressing concerns.

The cut in state support for the college amounts to just over $2.1 million dollars. Sam Jones, the college's senior vice president for finance and administration, said that the move might hamper some of the college's initiatives once fiscal year 2018 begins.

"Since this is kind of a challenging budget, we're not accomplishing everything we might want," he said.

Instead of mandating each department shave its budget by a given amount, Jones and other college staff met with departments across campus to figure where they could trim their budgets.

"We don't do across the board cuts here," Jones said.

One of the opportunities they saw was to freeze some of the college's vacant positions. In a November meeting, Jones also mentioned simply dropping the temperature of classrooms when they are not generally in use will cut costs for the college.

Budgetary issues on the state level are part of why the college adopted the William and Mary Promise in 2013.

In-state students in each incoming class since have paid more than the previous class, but tuition is frozen once they arrive on campus. Fees can and have risen.

The board agreed in its November meeting to raise tuition 4.4 percent, and agreed Friday to raise tuition for out-of-state students by 3.5 percent. Incoming freshmen students will pay $16,370 and $37,425 next year, respectively.

Originally, the board considered raising tuition by 7.5 percent for in-state students, but they backed off amid pressure from the state.

"Then, the state cut our budget," Jones said. "Because we're true to our word, we stayed at 4.4 percent."

Looking at how tight the budget appears, President Taylor Reveley said that in hindsight, the Promise has worked out well for the college's long-term plans.

"The promise was absolutely crucial to our current success," he said. "Had we not done it, we'd be in really bad shape."

Close to 60 percent of the $60 million the college has received in incremental revenue since starting the Promise has gone toward raising faculty and staff salaries as well as toward offering financial aid, particularly to students from low-income households.

"Within Virginia, we've been the most aggressive school in the past 10 years," said provost Michael Halleran in reference to William and Mary's attempts to raise salaries.

Other schools in the college's peer group offer salaries that are more robust than William and Mary can afford to offer.

"It's a tough group," Halleran said. The State Council on Higher Education in Virginia includes public schools like Rutgers, but also private schools like Vanderbilt and Georgetown.

There are sectors of the population that the school is still struggling to bring to campus, Reveley said.

"In a time of great challenges for American public higher education, William and Mary is vibrantly healthy," Reveley said. "Still, we have an inadequate capacity to recruit kids from first-time college families, dirt poor families, weak high schools. That is an area of great potential for us."

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

Other business

•Several members of the board are also part of a search committee working to find finalists to fill the president's office. That group met with students, faculty and staff in separate meetings to hear what they wanted in a president.

•The Board formally recognized athletic director Terry Driscoll for his 21-year tenure at the college. Driscoll retires in June.

•Board members heard from members of the Advancement arm of the college, who announced Hunter Smith gave $15 million for renovations to the Alumni House. The money will add more than 35,000 square feet to the building.

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