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W&M Board holds in-state undergraduate tuition flat for fourth year

The William & Mary Board of Visitors approved tuition and fees for the 2021-22 academic year during their April 23 meeting. That action included no tuition increase for both in-state and out-of-state undergraduate students -- the fourth year in a row the Board has kept tuition flat for in-state undergraduate students and their families. The Board’s action also included holding flat for most Arts and Sciences, Marine Science, and School of Education graduate programs. 

The Board approved the recommendation of President Katherine A. Rowe to hold tuition flat for another year, recognizing the significant financial impact that the pandemic has had on many William & Mary’s students and their families. The last in-state undergraduate tuition increase was for the 2018-19 academic year.

“We recognize that it’s been a tough year for many William & Mary students and their families,”Rowe said. “Our decision not to increase tuition for the upcoming academic year reflects William & Mary’s continued commitment to affordability.” 

At a public hearing in late January, William & Mary had announced that it was considering tuition increases of up to 3% and postponed a decision on the matter until this month to have better clarity about the state’s overall budget picture. On a weighted average, for in-state families with income less than $110,000 who qualify for financial aid, W&M offers the lowest average personal net price among all four-year public universities in Virginia. Net price reflects only what is actually paid or borrowed by a family after receiving grant aid. 

Friday’s action also includes zero tuition increases for nearly all professional programs. For selected professional and dual degree programs, the Board took action to bring tuition to market rates relative to peer institutions, increasing tuition for the Law School as well as the executive MBA program and decreasing tuition for the master of public policy program. The University of St Andrews Dual Degree Programme will be increased 3% consistent with W&M’s agreement with that institution.

Beyond tuition, the Board’s actions included modest fee increases driven by state authorized salary actions and mandated increases in fringe benefits. Students will see fees increase by $184 to support programs like student health and wellness, recreational sports, student activities, and other auxiliary enterprises that receive no state support. Students living on campus and participating in the university dining program will also see an average increase of $324 for room and board.  

“Although the university continues to face financial challenges, today’s action is an important one for our students and families,”  said Amy Sebring, chief operating officer. “To close budget gaps, the university has continued to focus on cost containment, internal budget reallocations, and new sources of revenue, including strategic enrollment growth to reduce the impact on student tuition and fees.”

Significant one-time funding has also come from the Commonwealth.  

“The Governor and General Assembly have continued to be good partners,” said Rector John E. Littel. "For FY22, William & Mary will receive an estimated $8.8 million in additional state support, which helped bring the budget into balance. Both the Commonwealth and the university have a shared interest in ensuring that Virginia public institutions provide affordable access to world-class educational opportunities.” 

Sebring explained that with the Board’s action today, William & Mary has held undergraduate in-state tuition flat since Fall 2018.  

“William & Mary continues to outperform its peers. When we look at the U.S. News rankings for quality and compare that to the level of resources we have, we are punching well above our weight class,” she said. 

However, Sebring cautioned that performance is not likely to be sustainable without additional measures. 

During their February meeting, the Board discussed the need for additional cost containment and budget reductions. Prior to COVID-19, Sebring said the university had already identified a mismatch between its financial model which reflects its position as a public research university and its operational model which incorporates the virtues of a small, private liberal arts and science institution. 

“In FY22, tuition will account for less than 50% of the university’s revenue - which is where we would like it to stay," she said. "The Board and administration agree that new, sustainable revenue sources will need to be incorporated into an extended, long-range planning process.”