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W&M Board reverses fall 2020 tuition increase, keeps all tuition and mandatory fees flat next year

The William & Mary Board of Visitors unanimously voted Tuesday to roll back a previously adopted tuition increase for incoming in-state undergraduates and keep tuition and mandatory fees flat for all students, including in-state and out-of-state undergraduates, graduate and professional students.

The vote followed a public meeting last month in which the Board’s Executive Committee and President Katherine A. Rowe concurred that, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and their families, the Board would reverse the previously adopted increase and approve zero increase for tuition and mandatory fees for all students. The action is part of the university’s overall planned response to mitigate financial strain on students and families.

“COVID-19 has negatively impacted the education, finances and well-being of our students and families,” said Rector John Littel, P’22. “The university has worked tirelessly to ensure that the pandemic causes as little disruption to learning as possible, but it is also important to look for ways to lessen the financial burden many are facing and remove some uncertainty for families. Freezing tuition and mandatory fees is an important action as we consider the impact of this world pandemic on our community.” 

According to Tuesday’s resolution, the tuition and fee rates adopted by the Board are for the upcoming 2020-21 academic year. It reverses action taken by the Board in the fall, which included a 3% tuition increase for new in-state undergraduates, in accordance with the university’s six-year plan. That plan, which was adopted in September, called for in-state undergraduate tuition increases of up to 3% each year. Going forward, the intent is that the Board will revisit future tuition recommendations in advance of the 2021-22 academic year, said Amy Sebring, vice president for finance and technology.

Tuesday’s resolution includes an increase of up to 2.9% in the average room rate and up to 3% increase in the meal plan rate for FY21.

The approved FY 2020-21 budget is part of a university-wide approach to planning for the year ahead. In response to the pandemic, the administration has already implemented several immediate measures to limit near-term spending until more is known about long-term financial impacts. The university instituted a hiring freeze, filling only positions that are required to maintain continuity of operations. The remainder of the fiscal year, employees have been asked to curtail all purchases not considered “mission critical,” with the exception of externally funded research expenses.

President Rowe announced last week a small, multidisciplinary planning team has been charged with exploring scenarios related to possible COVID-19 impacts over the next 18 months. William & Mary is committed to holding in-person classes if it is safe to do so and the university will announce details on that planning in June, she said.

“We are continuing to make decisions in a measured, phased way, taking the steps required to flatten the curve of financial impact due to COVID-19,” Rowe said. “Bringing our campus back together safely is an enormous task and also a hopeful one because it is a key step in the path forward to a post-COVID-19 William & Mary.”