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W&M to add more Virginians to entering class

William & Mary will take an additional 38 students who are Virginia residents in next year’s entering class as part of a long-term effort to ultimately add 150 in-state students to the College’s enrollment.

When out-of-state students are included, William & Mary’s undergraduate enrollment will increase a total of 200 students over the next four years, President Taylor Reveley announced in a recent message to campus. The decision follows several months of work by a campus-wide committee of faculty, administrators and students who researched the impacts of growth in student enrollment and submitted a report to the president earlier this semester.

In his message, Reveley said the modest growth is the result of negotiations in Richmond with members of the Virginia General Assembly who were considering taking action to force universities to reduce the percentage of out-of-state students in their undergraduate enrollments. At William & Mary, out-of-state students make up 35 percent of the 5,800 undergraduates but provide the university with roughly two-thirds of its undergraduate tuition revenue.

William & Mary faced the most serious risk yet that its percentage of out-of-state students would be legislatively cut to 25 percent, Reveley said. That would have resulted in the loss of millions in tuition revenue and also impacted the cultural diversity on campus. William & Mary attracts students from across the nation and world who bring to campus varied perspectives and experiences.

A reduction in the out-of-state ratio was not required after state universities, especially UVA and William & Mary, agreed to take additional in-state students phased in over the next four to five years, said Reveley, adding that UVA has agreed to add 1,000 in-state undergraduates along with several hundred out-of-state students.

The committee, co-chaired by Provost Michael R. Halleran and Associate Professor of Business and Faculty Assembly Vice President Todd Mooradian, was appointed last spring by the president. It examined what modest growth would mean to the overall academic experience, campus life and a sense of community, admissions, finances and town-gown relations. In its report, the committee reviewed three separate scenarios – no growth; growth of 50 students a year for a net of 200 over four years; and growth of 100 students a year for a net of 400 over the same time period.

In its report to the president, the committee noted a real concern across campus about the impact of growth to the educational experience at William & Mary. It also acknowledged the political realities and pressures to increase the number of in-state students attending the College.

Among the committee’s chief findings:

  • The current size of the student body, while not immutable, has many advantages that support an intimate liberal arts education, an essential element in the College’s strategies and positioning.
  • External, uncontrollable factors may necessitate increasing enrollment at the College, and that growth must be strategic, planned, and implemented with care.
  • The College’s resources and its intimate liberal arts model are, in some important respects, already stressed.
  • Student-body size exists in a delicate ecology. Any decision to increase its size of the student body must be made intentionally, cautiously and strategically to minimize potential negative impacts.
  • The faculty should have a clear role going forward in advising the administration on managing enrollment.

Early in the process, the committee determined that an increase in enrollment would add some revenue but additional students would not be a budget-balancing action. The report notes that any growth of students would require additional investments in financial aid, additional instructional staff and, possibly, operational resources and infrastructure. Any net gain in tuition revenue, Halleran noted, would be very modest when all factors are considered.

In its conclusion, the committee emphasized the College’s unique position among public universities in the country and its benefit to the Commonwealth as a university that provides Virginia residents an Ivy League education at in-state prices.

“The imperative for the state and the College is, if we grow, to do so intentionally, thoughtfully, strategically and modestly, so we can meet the state’s needs while we continue to be a leading liberal arts university in the 21st century,” the report states.

In his message to the campus community, Reveley noted that modest growth will begin this fall. In addition to the 38 additional Virginia students, 12 out-of-state students will be added to the Class of 2015.

“I am very grateful for the hard work and keen analysis of the campus-wide committee of faculty, administrators and students who examined the factors that we must take into account when acting on growth in the undergraduate body,” Reveley said.