William & Mary

Message on 2011/12 undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board

William & Mary President Taylor Reveley sent the following message to the campus community on April 15, 2011 - Ed.

Dear William & Mary Community,

Let me report to you the decisions made earlier today by our Board of Visitors about undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board for academic year 2011/12.   

For an in-state undergraduate who lives and eats on campus (as 75% of our undergraduates do), there will be a 5.5% increase in costs next year to a total of $22,024.  For a comparable out-of-state undergraduate, the increase will be 5.7% to $44,854.

The College will provide additional financial assistance to help offset the impact for those with demonstrated need.  Since 2008, William & Mary has increased financial aid by 117%, including an additional $1.8 million in 2011/12.

The context for these actions is important.  Next academic year, we confront a financial cliff resulting from the combination of a long-term decline in state funding (including very significant cuts after the recession hit in 2008) and the expiration in 2011/12 of federal stimulus funds for higher education.  Over the last generation, state support for William & Mary’s operating budget has gone from over 43% to under 13%.  Since 2008, state funding for William & Mary has been reduced five times for a total of $17.1 million, resulting in a 33% loss of state support for our operating budget.

Virginia’s leaders appreciate how important college-educated citizens are to the state’s economic, civic, and cultural success, even its public safety.  Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly recently enacted landmark legislation to begin re-investment in higher education in Virginia, and for the first time since 2007 there were no new reductions in state funding for higher education.  Rather the state provided some additional funds for 2011/12 – $900 thousand for William & Mary – for priorities such as need-based financial aid, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and enrollment growth.

Though our elected leaders agree on the importance of higher education and have taken steps to begin re-investing in it, the Commonwealth must balance many competing needs for state dollars.  Infrastructure, health care, K-12 education, and public safety usually prove to be more politically compelling than higher education.   Given the gap between the state’s needs and revenues, it will be difficult for the Commonwealth to support adequately each and every one of its public colleges and universities in the years ahead.

To meet the financial challenge, William & Mary will have to find new revenue sources, attract additional private philanthropy, and become even more innovative and efficient.  We are working hard in each of those areas.

William & Mary has been highly productive for a very long time, achieving much with limited resources.  The U.S. News and World Report rankings for 2010, for example, list the College as the 31st (tie) best national university in the country with resources that rank much lower at 85th.  No other leading university has as wide a disparity between quality and resources.   Kiplinger’s February 2011 edition ranks William & Mary as the fourth-best bargain among public universities. 

From 2008 to 2010 the university reduced baseline, recurring expenses on the main campus by over $8 million and by over $6 million at our Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  We anticipate another $1 million reduction next academic year on the main campus.  As is true of other public colleges and universities in Virginia, William & Mary has had no general salary increases for faculty and staff during the past three years.  This has become a serious problem  that poses competitive risks for the university. Extremely able people – the sort of faculty and staff at William & Mary – are mobile.

This year we launched a major effort to review our various business and academic processes to seek even greater innovation and efficiency. We have also redoubled our efforts to encourage philanthropy, and we are effectively investing our endowed funds.  Philanthropy has become increasingly essential to sustain the College.  Annual giving, yield on endowed funds, and the like now pay 10% to 11% of our operating expenses.  Growing this philanthropic percentage is critical to William & Mary’s future. Our endowed funds have rebounded from losses early in the recession, and William & Mary Foundation’s Chief Investment Officer was recently honored as the “Small Endowment Manager of the Year for 2011” by Investment Magazine.

So far, we have been able to protect William & Mary’s extraordinary academic program.  The student-faculty ratio for our undergraduate program, 12-1, is the best among public universities in the state and one of the best, if not the best, among all public universities in the United States.  Close student-faculty collaborations in the classroom and in research, as well as a strong sense of community on our residential campus, are central elements of the William & Mary experience. To date, we have not lowered our academic standards or diminished the engaged learning inherent in close relationships between faculty and students.  Nor have we abandoned a vibrant residential experience for our students or the preservation of our beautiful, historic campus. 

But no matter how innovative and productive we become, William & Mary’s academic model, which hinges on intense engagement between faculty and students of compelling ability, will require substantial resources.  This is the model for very few universities in the country, and it explains why our undergraduate program is so academically effective.  William & Mary is a Public Ivy.  We provide the sort of learning available at outstanding private universities devoted to the liberal arts that are much better endowed and charge much higher tuitions than we charge our in-state students.  Even our out-of-state students pay less than they would at private schools with comparable undergraduate programs.

As William & Mary comes to depend more and more on the private side of the public/private partnership that now funds the College’s operations,  the families benefitting from what the College provides are being asked increasingly to help shoulder the costs of one of the truly superb undergraduate educations in the country.  William & Mary, for its part, is raising new private funds for financial aid, both need-based and merit-based, and we have intensified our efforts to build a powerful philanthropic foundation for William & Mary.  We are also working assiduously on the campus’s cost-effectiveness. 

We’re in this together.



Taylor Reveley