The William & Mary Board of Visitors on Friday voted to conclude a five-year freeze on tuition, approving rates for the 2023-24 academic year that will advance the university’s commitment to quality, affordability and efficiency. The action comes at a time when the university is forced to balance a budget gap next year of approximately $23 million due to inflation-related expenses and state-mandated costs.
“We are committed to the lowest increases possible that allow us to fulfill the mission of this university and uphold our commitments to William & Mary’s pre-eminence and excellence,” said President Katherine A. Rowe. “Our balance is always ensuring that we advance W&M quality while limiting costs for families and students.”
William & Mary was one of just three public colleges and universities in the state to hold tuition flat in FY23 and set a statewide record for holding tuition flat for in-state students for five years. It was also among the longest efforts in the country to hold tuition flat. Over that same time, inflation has risen a cumulative 17.5%. To reduce costs, the university took actions – such as freezing hiring, limiting investment in new projects and implementing significant operational efficiencies – and sought other cost savings.
Friday’s action limits tuition increases to 4.7% for in-state undergraduates and 4.9% for out-of-state undergraduates for the 2023-24 academic year. When considering mandatory fees (which cover academic and student health and wellness services) the combined average increase is 4.5% and 4.7% for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively. The new rates remain below projections set forth in the university’s Six-Year Plan. William & Mary will continue to meet the full demonstrated need for Virginia families.
In an effort to improve cost predictability for families, the board and administration also discussed the need for a long-term policy that connects future tuition increases to predictable economic and budget measures. At the request of the board, the administration will conduct additional research on a proposed long-term policy and the board will discuss at a future meeting.
“William & Mary is a leading liberal arts and research university and our community expects us to maintain this excellence,” said Rector Charles E. Poston J.D. ’74. “Our families also deserve a predictable model that helps mitigate the rapid changes that come with inflation and unexpected costs. Today’s action advances both priorities while keeping costs as low as possible given the current financial realities.”
Excellence, Efficiency & Affording Opportunity
During Friday’s meeting, the administration and board members agreed that cost-saving measures remain a top priority. Among its peers in the top 50 national universities as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, William & Mary is one of the most efficient for instructional costs per credit hour, 45% below the median for this group.
Additionally, William & Mary continues to be among the most efficient of the nation’s leading universities when comparing quality with available resources. In the latest undergraduate U.S. News & World Report national ranking, W&M tied for 41st among all colleges and universities in the country, and tied 7th for undergraduate teaching, while ranking just 105th for financial resources – the second-lowest resources ranking among all of the top 50 national universities.
“William & Mary is a lean, efficient university. That must continue to advance our targeted, strategic priorities within Vision 2026,” Poston said.
The university’s FY24 budget also prioritizes accessibility, earmarking $4.3 million for financial aid – a 6.6% increase over FY23 funding. U.S. Department of Education data shows W&M offers the lowest personal net cost of all Virginia four-year institutions for low-to middle-income Virginia families earning $110,000 or less annually.
“Maintaining an eye on that personal net cost is imperative,” said James A. Hixon J.D. ’79, M.L.T. ’80, chair of the board’s Committee on Financial Affairs. “That dollar figure is the out-of-pocket impact for our students.”
In September, the university committed to growing in-state Pell enrollment to 20% of W&M’s in-state student body by 2026. This pledge follows a 132% increase in financial aid commitments between FY13-FY18 as part of William & Mary’s Promise and $350 million committed to scholarships across the campus through the For the Bold campaign.
“The board and this institution are committed to both access and excellence,” Hixon added. “Last year, the university announced a guarantee to also meet full need for tuition and fees for all Pell eligible, in-state students and we stand by that commitment.”
Economic Pressures & Strategic Spending
The current economic environment presents a number of challenges for the university, Interim Chief Operating Officer Jackie Ferree told the board.
Added revenue from tuition will go to offset W&M’s share of state-mandated costs ($15.5 million) as well as the $6.9 million impact from inflation and the university’s continued commitment to Virginia Pell-eligible families. The impact of Friday’s action in tuition and fees is expected to cover $9.6 million, or less than half of the current shortfall. The remainder will be covered through cost optimizations, holding hiring to only the most needed positions, using some reserves to meet critical needs and some budget reductions in variable non-fixed costs, Ferree said.
Preparing students to address the global challenges of the 21st century is central to William & Mary’s Vision 2026 strategic plan, Ferree added.
Accomplishing that, as the plan details, will require infusing applied learning across the curriculum; expanding offerings in computer, data and applied science programs; aligning the university’s strengths in history with preparation for global citizenship and continuing to lead the nation in environmental forecasting and resilience.
“William & Mary provides a high-quality/high-value education,” Poston said. “The resources approved by the board this week allow the university to continue moving forward with the program enhancements outlined in our strategic plan and elevate the quality our students and their families expect across our operations.”
Dining fees were not included in the board’s decisions today; those will be set in May following the completed negotiation of a new dining services contract. According to Friday’s action, room rates next year will increase 6%, which aligns with the university’s long range housing comprehensive plan.Tuition and fees were set for the university’s general graduate programs, Raymond A. Mason School of Business and William & Mary Law School in November 2022.
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