Statement from Dr. Beasley Regarding Proposed Tuition & Fee Increase at CU
Athens, W.Va. – Concord University President, Dr. Jerry Beasley, has provided the following statement regarding a proposed increase in tuition and fees at Concord University:
“Each year, the Board of Governors asks me to recommend tuition and fee levels for the following academic year. Usually, I make this recommendation to the Board in April, after the conclusion of the annual session of the state legislature. I want to use this space to tell you about some of the factors that I consider in formulating this recommendation because your SGA has made tuition and fee stabilization its top priority this year. Moreover, our Board of Governors has asked me to find ways to minimize increases.
“One of the key determinants of tuition and fees in state supported institutions is the level of appropriations provided by the state’s taxpayers and set by the governor and legislature. Over the past decade in West Virginia, state appropriations for higher education institutions increased 26.2 percent compared to 56.3 percent nationally. Across the country, lower levels of state support have been tied directly to higher charges to students. There is a clear and strong inverse relationship between state appropriations and student charges.
STUDENT FINANCIAL AID AND SCHOLARSHIPS
“Increasingly, the idea of college affordability has come to shape thinking about access to educational opportunity. Affordability considers not only the “sticker price” of colleges but also the resources that are available to students to pay for their education. Their resources may include family support, income from employment, federal and state financial aid and scholarships, institutional support via scholarships and work opportunities, and loans from a variety of sources.
“Inadequate support of INSTITUTIONS has been offset partially in some states by higher support of STUDENTS in the form of need-based grants and merit scholarships. West Virginia has dramatically increased its direct student support through the state grant program, the Promise Scholarship, and its assistance of part-time students through the HEAPS program. West Virginia now ranks fourth in the nation in state-supported student financial aid as a percentage of state appropriations for public higher education. Concord students have benefited significantly from these programs. Ten years ago, our students were awarded slightly over $600,000 through these programs; last year, about $4.7 million.
“In addition, the federal Pell Grant has increased over the past decade (the maximum Pell grant will increase by $421 for the next academic year), and aid from Concord sources has grown from $1.8 million to about $3.1 million. Still more indirect aid is available to the families of college students through federal tax credits for low to moderate income families.
“The total amount of aid available to students seems to have increased at a rate even greater than the total increase in costs to students. However, an important question begs answers: who has been left behind? Recently, I heard someone say that while a rising tide lifts all boats, some may be swamped if they’re tied to the dock.
“It appears that some Concord students have not benefited from these substantial increases in student aid. While the amount of unmet student need actually declined this year, there is still a substantial number of Concord students who have unmet need. This fall, some funds were budgeted to help students with unmet need. I have asked Michael Curry to determine what types of students remain needy. In addition, a faculty team has proposed an in-depth study of the difficulties encountered by Concord students, which will likely be replicated at the state level.
“On average, Concord students receive substantially more financial aid and scholarships than students at other similar institutions. For example, Concord awards from institutional funds about $930 more aid per student than other small, four-year institutions in West Virginia. And, the state of West Virginia provides $1082 more per Concord student than other states where our peer institutions are located. As one result, Concord students have to borrow about $4000 less than students in other West Virginia colleges.
STUDENT CHARGES AT COMPETING INSTITUTIONS
“This year, we have reliable information on the other institutions to which Concord prospective students are applying and attending. West Virginia University and Marshall appear to be our principal competitors in the state. Their charges for tuition, room and board are respectively $854 and $260 greater than Concord’s charges. The student financial aid that those two institutions provide is, on average, considerably less than what Concord provides. Concord’s charges are 5th highest among the ten four-year public institutions in West Virginia.
“A comparison of charges and student aid also invites comparison of the quality of the ‘product’” at the three institutions, a subject for extended discussion on another day.
Of course, charges at area community colleges are considerably lower than ours. I believe that these lower charges will indeed encourage some students to pursue this option for their first two years of college. We intend to work closely with our colleagues in these sister institutions to ease student transfer to Concord.
“Our charges to out-of-state students are very competitive with public and private rates in other states, especially those close to West Virginia. Due to their exclusiveness related to socio-economic indicators, Virginia’s public institutions have recently been called “gated communities” by a national expert on college access.
“I believe that we should not raise tuition and fees merely because we can or because the market will allow it. We should only raise rates for legitimate needs. So each year in our budgetary deliberations, we consider real institutional needs and ways to finance them, including savings from existing spending.
“Typically, there are increasing costs over which we have little or no control. For example, energy and health care costs have been steadily climbing. Normal maintenance of buildings and equipment requires attention. We have actually been spending about one-half the amount considered prudent for maintenance. All costs associated with colleges and universities are monitored and included in the Higher Education Price Index (HEPI), which we closely watch. Because of the mix of items in the HEPI, it generally increases at a rate slightly higher than the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This year the HEPI increased by 3.4 percent according to WV Policy Commission reports.
“As you may imagine, salaries and benefits represent a substantial portion of the Concord budget. I have always been proud that Concord employees have not wanted pay raises at student expense. Nor have employees wanted raises that require the elimination of co-workers’ jobs. However, we are in an especially competitive marketplace for some positions. Faculty salaries in West Virginia’s public colleges are 16th among the 16 Southern states. Salaries of non-faculty also lag counterparts by wide margins. While Concord can clearly claim wonderful attractions, we cannot expect faculty and staff to sacrifice unduly and indefinitely. “Raising classified salaries alone to the Mercer schedule requires approximately $195,000, a goal we should try to achieve next year.
“Last year, salaries were boosted and we closed the gap between Concord’s salaries and those of peer institutions. This year, Governor Manchin has proposed a three (3) percent salary increases for state employees. Unfortunately, his proposed budget does not provide funds adequate for a three percent raise for all employees at Concord; he’s roughly $180,000 short. Institutional funds will have to make up the difference.
“Some student leaders have suggested that students are likely to support tuition and fee increases that can be linked directly to visible improvements. Where possible, I think that our Board of Governors will indeed do that. Improving recreational facilities is one example. New master’s programs may be another. ADA improvements must continue. And, student leaders have asked for increased engagement with faculty outside normal class hours including extended office hours.
OTHER INCOME SOURCES
“Colleges typically rely on their annual fund drives and endowment income to support their work. Concord, over the years, has been the beneficiary of generous support, principally to provide student scholarships. Concord’s endowment per student in 2006 was $5,474 compared to $632 at its national peer institutions (determined by the Higher Education Policy Commission). Investment growth since 2006 has increased the endowment holdings to $9,508 per student. An anticipated bequest of approximately $5 million will augment the endowment for scholarships in the near future. More recently, fund raising has focused on buildings (the Rahall Center and University Point) and instructional technology. Now that these campaigns are drawing to successful conclusions, Concord’s fund raising can again emphasize the types of support that aid people, scholarships and program-related personnel. Alumni and friends who are closest to the University are more likely to provide unrestricted support, dollars that can address our most pressing needs. It seems reasonable, then, to expect more general operating support from the various fund raising arms of the University over the next five years. Although specific goals have not been set, continued success in fund raising can, indeed, take the pressure off the pocketbook of students and parents.
ELIMINATION OF UNNECESSARY EXPENDITURES
“Although Concord’s spending budget is Spartan when compared to peer institutions, we must always be alert to opportunities for saving. (Concord expenditures per student are 59 percent of the average expenditures at peer institutions across the country.) I have received suggestions from students and staff alike in recent months. Some have suggested that future pay increases be concentrated on those employees who are below Concord’s averages. Some students, many themselves the beneficiaries of our most generous scholarships, have suggested that we spread our aid money over more students by reducing the amounts of the largest institutionally supported scholarships.
“The need for energy savings in the face of likely quantum leaps in fuel prices is of paramount importance. Each of us must do what we can to conserve. However, this is an area in which we will have to invest to save. Our Board of Governors will consider a proposal to borrow in order to invest in more efficient heating and cooling systems and in other energy-conserving initiatives.
“We have consolidated administrative positions in key areas to save funds in the short run. But, I am very much aware that such a reaction to hard times may be “penny wise and pound foolish.” Thoughtful restoration may be a wise investment in Concord’s future.
“In conclusion, I believe that students should prepare themselves for years of continuing tuition and fee increases at public colleges and universities across the country. Politically popular these days, supporting students directly by scholarships and financial aid in lieu of supporting institutions, which indirectly kept tuition low, is a signal to college leaders that building enrollment is the means of financing their institutions. Students who happen to receive the aid are empowered, for they can now use those financial aid or scholarship grants to attend the college of their choice. Fortunately for some, this student aid has actually grown faster than the increased charges that they have encountered. For others who receive little or no additional aid, lower priced colleges or no college at all seems to be the bleak alternative. This trend is not likely to be altered until students organize themselves effectively to convince state legislators and governors that ALL students are worthy of support and that modestly priced public colleges are an investment not only in individual dreams but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the building of democratic communities of informed citizens.”