Friday, August 29, 2014

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Board of Visitors Subcommittee to Develop Strategies to Ensure Affordable Excellence

University of Virginia Rector George Keith Martin today convened a Board of Visitors subcommittee charged with sustaining and strengthening U.Va.’s commitment to affordable excellence.

The subcommittee will develop recommendations for the board on an integrated approach to tuition, financial aid, the operating budget and implementation of U.Va.’s strategic plan. The overarching goal is to develop a multi-year financial framework that benefits students and their families, supports the commonwealth’s higher-education service to Virginians and sustains the University’s nationally recognized AccessUVa financial aid program.

“The University offers tremendous value and academic excellence today,” Martin said. “But we can and will do even better. I’m confident this effort will lead to a comprehensive approach that provides families more predictability about the cost of a U.Va. degree while ensuring that AccessUVa remains the best public university financial aid program in the country. This undertaking will better position the University to achieve strategic priorities by developing a reliable, multi-year approach that encompasses all of our financial obligations and revenue sources.”

Martin named Board of Visitors member John A. Griffin as chair of the new group, a subcommittee of the board’s Finance Committee. Griffin is joined by board members Victoria D. Harker, Kevin J. Fay and Frank B. Atkinson.

“World-class universities need to lead on affordability, access, value and sustainable excellence,” Griffin said. “I look forward to drawing on the collective expertise of my board colleagues and across the University’s diverse areas to meet these important challenges.”

The subcommittee began its work at its inaugural meeting on Thursday, with the expectation of presenting recommendations to the full board before the end of the year. Recommendations adopted by the board would be in place as the University begins the tuition-setting and budget-development processes for the 2015-16 academic and fiscal years. The board set tuition for the 2014-15 academic year in April and will consider the fiscal year 2015 budget proposal on Friday.

“The timing is right to launch this effort to construct a comprehensive, multi-year strategy,” Martin said. “The subcommittee will seek input broadly for this effort, from the Board of Visitors, the administration and the University community.”

Several key components have converged to set the stage for the committee’s work, including:

  • The Cornerstone Plan: This five-year strategic plan, approved in November, identifies the core priorities for U.Va. for the years ahead, with 15 specific strategies that will distinguish the University from its peers and competitors.
  • AccessUVa: More students demonstrate greater financial need each year, necessitating long-term strategies to maintain U.Va.’s commitment to meet their need. This will require launching new philanthropic efforts to ensure the program’s sustainability for future generations, enabling the University to continue providing access to the most talented students using a need-blind admissions process, and meeting 100 percent of student financial need.
  • Affordability: As the commonwealth seeks to increase opportunities for in-state students, it also shares the University’s interest in providing an attainable education for Virginia families. U.Va.’s tuition and fee increases have been among the lowest in the state in recent years, and the new subcommittee will develop recommendations that offer more financial predictability for parents over the course of each student’s undergraduate career.
  • Efficiencies: The University is accruing the first of many benefits of its “Organizational Excellence” initiative. This effort finds enterprise-wide opportunities for more efficient operations and processes, while aligning limited resources with U.Va.’s strategic priorities. The proposed fiscal year 2015 budget includes about $12 million in projected savings.

“We have an opportunity to further develop and enhance our long-term financial strategies in concert with the strategic objectives detailed in the Cornerstone Plan, supporting the entire University community for many years to come,” said Harker, who chairs the board’s Finance Committee. “Funding for higher education is finite, but our opportunity to creatively explore ways to continually enhance the value of a University of Virginia degree is unlimited.”

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