February 28, 2011 — While awaiting the outcome of state budget negotiations in Richmond, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors focused on academic affairs during its two-day quarterly meeting.
Before wrapping up its business on Friday, the board took two steps that represent major policy changes for the University.
The board voted to increase enrollment by an additional 1,500 students in the next five years over already-projected growth – provided the state comes through with additional funding.
The board also approved the first plan to charge "differential tuition" in the undergraduate program, requiring students entering the McIntire School of Commerce this fall to pay an additional $3,000 above the University's general tuition, thus covering more of the cost of their more-expensive education.
Also, the Educational Policy Committee heard a report from Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, on her plan to fundamentally restructure funding for graduate education, using metrics to increase funding for the strongest programs and boosting support for graduate students.
Woo Outlines Restructured Approach to Graduate Education in Arts & Sciences
Funding for graduate education in Arts & Sciences has been "all over the place," Woo said as she outlined her plan to rationalize and restructure graduate support. The College has 23 departments that award Ph.D.s, serving 1,511 graduate students. The annual budget for supporting those students is $35 million.
Fellowships now vary widely by department, ranging from $13,000 per year to $22,000, she said. Departments have long advocated greater support for graduate students, who Woo called "the sine qua non for an excellent research university."
In an effort to maintain the College's excellence, Woo has designed a plan that will take the same budget and split it into fewer slices, reducing intake into graduate programs by 5 percent each year, and offering those admitted larger fellowships that are guaranteed for longer. That should produce higher-quality students, she said.
For humanities and social sciences programs, she proposes three levels of fellowships, at $22,000, $20,000 and $18,000 annually, based upon departmental performance. All packages will be guaranteed for five years. "Nearly everyone is better off with the new fellowship packages," she said.
Departmental performance will be measured by three metrics: admissions, including the caliber of incoming students and admissions yield; completion rate, or how many students attain their doctorates; and placement record. The criteria are transparent and quantifiable, Woo noted, and the system will reward departments that perform well.
The objective, she said, is to support graduate students better, suffer less attrition and see them graduate and find jobs in their fields.
A similar process will be implemented among the basic science departments, she said, with all of the measures taking effect beginning in the 2012-13 academic year.
The restructuring of fellowships is the beginning of a long process of revamping graduate and undergraduate education, she said. Woo said she has met with every department to explain the plan, and she acknowledged that the reaction has been mixed.
"This is huge," University Rector John O. Wynne said. He said board members will inevitably be approached by faculty members whose departments stand to lose graduate students. "We need to stand tall," he told his colleagues.
Board Backs Differential Tuition for McIntire School
The plan to charge a tuition differential to students in the top-ranked McIntire School of Commerce is a matter of fairness, President Teresa A. Sullivan said. Commerce education is expensive, particularly with the need to lure top faculty from the business world.
"It seems the right thing to do for students who benefit from this to pay for it," she said.
Under the board-approved plan, in-state and out-of-state students entering the McIntire School this fall will be assessed $3,000 in differential tuition beyond the University’s base tuition level. Current third-year students in the class of 2012 will not be charged the additional tuition. The board will review and evaluate the differential tuition plan, as well as potential changes and extensions, over the next year.
McIntire will continue to support AccessUVa, the University's financial aid program, allocating a significant portion of the tuition revenues generated from the differential to the program on a per-student basis. The actual amount will be calculated and agreed upon when the financial aid need is determined.
The proposal drew wide support from board members. Mark Kington noted that the Darden School of Business began raising the tuition for its MBA program to market rates as part of its self-sufficiency initiative, and its application pool – and global reputation – have remained strong.
Charging the same tuition for a degree in commerce as for a less-expensive education in religious studies, for example, is unfair to the religious studies student, Kington said. He saw the issue as a choice between "socializing costs among all students, or assigning them to those who benefit."
During the board discussion, Sullivan acknowledged that other schools within the University will be watching the McIntire experiment, noting that the School of Engineering and Applied Science may be the only major engineering school in the country that does not impose additional tuition or laboratory fees.
Wynne said he had discussed the plan with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who has raised concerns about the cost of higher education. He said McDonnell told him the plan "made a lot of sense," and saw it as a creative reform. Wynne also noted that Virginia Tech has charged differential tuition "for years."
The revenue generated by differential tuition will be critical to the maintenance and enhancement of McIntire's position as a global leader in business education, Dean Carl Zeithaml said. In the five years that BusinessWeek has ranked undergraduate business programs, McIntire is the only one to be consistently ranked either first or second. In 2010 it was ranked No. 2, and No. 1 among public colleges and universities.
"Funds generated by differential tuition will support and expand the value-added programs and services that enable the school to provide its students with an unparalleled educational experience," Zeithaml said. "Differential tuition is a very common funding mechanism at many other undergraduate business programs, and this additional revenue will ensure that our graduates are the best prepared among their national and international peers."
The tuition revenues will be directed to programs and activities that provide advisory services, support resources and new opportunities for students. Investments will be made immediately in the Commerce Career Services Office, the McIntire Student Services Office, the Technology Support function, the innovative, integrative third-year core curriculum, increased course offerings in critical disciplines such as leadership and entrepreneurship, and the school's diverse global partnerships and study-abroad opportunities.
In addition, Zeithaml said that the additional revenue will be used "to recruit and retain the world-class faculty and staff who are the long-term foundation of our vibrant student experience. Through their commitment to innovation, emphasis on a strong and caring community, and dedication to preparing our students for lifetimes of leadership, integrity, and success, they will ensure the school's continued excellence."
The additional resources will supplement state and private resources, he added.
The McIntire proposal was part of a larger group of tuition increases for certain programs that begin in May or June, including Darden's MBA for executives and global MBA for executives; McIntire's master's program in management of information technology; and Arts & Sciences' post-baccalaureate, pre-medical certificate program. Those increases ranged from 3 percent to 5.5 percent.
Tuition and fees for programs that begin in the fall – including general undergraduate tuition – will be set at a special board meeting in April.
Enrollment Vote Marks Shift in State-University Relations
Responding to recommendations of the Governor's Commission on Higher Education Reform and related legislation, the board voted to further expand enrollment, beginning with an additional 50 undergraduate students entering this fall – assuming the General Assembly follows through on promises to fund the costs of enrollment growth.
The University agreed in 2004 to add 1,500 new students by the 2014-15 academic year as part of restructuring negotiations with the state. The University still needs to add 273 students to meet that target.
The latest round of growth will increase the enrollment target by 1,400 undergraduate and 100 graduate students in the next five years, as part of McDonnell's call to confer 100,000 additional degrees on Virginians statewide over the next 15 years.
By the 2018-19 academic year, the projected undergraduate and graduate enrollment would be 22,848 – about 1,800 more students than are studying on Grounds this year. The University plans to maintain the current ratio of 70 percent in-state students and 30 percent out-of-state.
The resolution approved by the board says that "enrollment growth will occur only with appropriate state support as set forth in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011." That support would cover the costs of growth, from additional faculty members to student support staff.
In fact, University officials hope to reduce the faculty-student ratio from the current 17.5-to-1 to about 16-to-1, said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
The deal with the state to add students comes at a time of growing consensus in support of higher education in Richmond. Spurred by the recommendations of McDonnell's commission, the governor and the legislature see higher education as a key engine of economic growth in the state.
As the board met, conferees from the state House of Delegates and the state Senate were hashing out amendments to the two-year state budget, including the enrollment growth funding. Floor sessions were to be held at 5 p.m. Sunday to act upon an expected compromise budget.
Wynne, a member of the governor's commission, acknowledged that the state's relationship with higher education "hasn't worked well over the last 20 years."
Times have changed, he said. "The state is committed to these new students," he said, adding, "If the state does not fund those, they cannot expect us to accept them."
Sullivan said the new support will come with new expectations, including an increase in degrees awarded in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; the development of a proposal to confer bachelor's and master's degrees within the traditional four years; year-'round use of facilities; additional adult enrollment at facilities around the state; and ramped-up delivery of technology-enabled education.
Sullivan noted that the University already ranks high in its productivity and efficiency. "We start from a solid foundation of proven performance," she said.
Wynne said higher education institutions "will have to make hard choices," because the governor's reform proposals include penalties for failure to meet performance goals.
Board member W. Heywood Fralin, another member of the governor's commission, said the governor is committing additional funds to higher education in future years, but also expects the schools to develop reforms and innovations – like the accelerated degree proposal – that will reduce the cost of education to students and their families.
The Higher Education Opportunity Act also provides for a 10-member advisory committee. Wynne said he hopes the governor will appoint Sullivan as one of two representatives from doctoral institutions.
• The board voted unanimously to name the Cavalier Marching Band's new facility on Culbreth Lane in honor of Hunter J. Smith. A major gift from Smith and her late husband, Carl W. Smith, longtime benefactors of the University, established the band, which debuted in 2004. The Hunter Smith Band Building will provide indoor rehearsal space, storage and offices for the band. Currently under construction, it is slated to open in August.
• Larry Kochard, the new chief executive officer of the University of Virginia Investment Management Company, or UVIMCO, made his first appearance before the Finance Committee. Before outlining his investment philosophy, he reported that the long-term investment pool has largely rebounded from the effects of the recession. The endowment stood at $5.1 billion before the recession hit at the beginning of the 2008-09 fiscal year; a year later, its value had plunged to $3.9 billion. But as of Dec. 31, it stood at $4.9 billion and has continued growing. "We're back!" Kochard told the committee.
• The board elected graduate medical student Jonathan B. Overdevest as its new non-voting student representative. He is currently in his sixth year of the seven-year medical scientist training program, working toward a joint M.D. and Ph.D. He has completed the requirements for a doctoral degree in physiology and is finishing the medical degree. Overdevest earned his undergraduate degree at Cornell University; at U.Va., he has served on the Honor Committee for three years and is an active member of the Raven Society. After his election in the board's preliminary meeting Thursday, he sat in on the rest of the board's two-day meeting. He will officially take his seat at the next meeting in June.
• As the economy begins to rebound, the University's $3 billion capital campaign is regaining momentum, Robert D. Sweeney, U.Va.'s senior vice president for development and public affairs, told the External Affairs Committee on Thursday. Cash flow for the year is about 7 percent ahead of last year, he said. "It feels like we are beginning to turn the corner," he told the committee, crediting Sullivan's work since arriving on Grounds in August. The total stands at $2.3 billion – about 77 percent of the goal, at about 88 percent of the way through the campaign, which is slated to end Dec. 31.
• Another University leader making his first appearance before the board was Mark Crowell, associate vice president for innovation partnerships and commercialization in the Office of the Vice President for Research. He told the Educational Policy Committee that he is focused on bringing the fruits of U.Va. research to market, adding that registering new patents is a tool for success, not a terminal goal. The goal, he said, is making deals to bring innovation to society at large.
• The Buildings and Grounds Committee endorsed a plan to expand and renovate the North Grounds Recreation Center, adding an indoor pool, squash courts and two outdoor tennis courts. The project is the first of several planned improvements to the University's recreational facilities; later projects may include upgrades to the Slaughter Recreation Center and Memorial Gymnasium and a construction of a new facility in the area of the medical precinct.
• Board members also heard a great deal about the student experience at the University. Outgoing student board representative Stewart Ackerly moderated a Friday afternoon discussion featuring alumni who spanned five decades; on Thursday, the board heard from representatives of the Muslim Student Association, the Latino Student Alliance and the Queer Student Union about their experiences at the University, and from top athletics officials about the experiences of student-athletes.