Yearly cost of college increase was the smallest since 2000, new report finds

The Wren Building at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Tuition and mandatory fees for in-state students at William and Mary were the highest of any of the state's public higher education institutions, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. (Wikimedia Commons)

The total average cost of college in Virginia rose 2.1 percent for in-state undergrads this academic year, the lowest increase since 2000, an annual report from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia found.

SCHEV’s annual tuition and fees report details increases in public college charges, including tuition, mandatory fees and room and board.

The agency attributed the relatively small increase in cost (about $479 more a year) to the General Assembly’s approval of additional state funding if colleges agreed to keep tuition level. Every public college and university did it.

The average total cost of public college tuition and mandatory fees for an in-state undergraduate is now $12,836, with community colleges being the cheapest option at $4,620 a year. The College of William & Mary was the most expensive at $23,628 a year.

Many students in the state pay about half of the total cost because of financial aid, the report noted.

Despite the small increase in average cost, Virginia public colleges and universities are still among the most expensive in the country. SCHEV staff estimated Virginia’s public research universities will be the seventh-most expensive in the country and comprehensive universities will be the fourth-most expensive based on current costs.

Among other findings from the report:

  • Mandatory non-educational fees, which fund non-instructional items, increased an average of 4 percent, or $155.
  • Room and board charges, which includes dorms and meal plans, now cost an average of $11,000, a 3.5 percent increase from last year. Those charges make up 44 percent of the average Virginia student’s college costs.
  • At most public colleges and universities, student fees mostly go toward athletics. Exceptions include the University of Mary Washington, where roughly $1,332 of a student’s mandatory fee payment goes toward student unions and George Mason University, where about $1,231 of a student’s fee payment goes toward facilities.
  • Virginia’s college students currently pay for about 52 percent of the cost of college, while the state funds 48 percent of the cost. State policy calls for the state to fund 67 percent of the cost and if that was implemented, tuition could be reduced by up to $2,800, SCHEV estimated.