Virginia and South Carolina have passed state budgets that increase funding for public colleges in exchange for commitments to freeze tuition for the coming school year. Education Dive reports that legislatures in California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Colorado are considering similar measures.
Virginia colleges ‘stepping up to the plate’
Last year, Virginia students “shouldered more than half of the burden of tuition costs… despite efforts for many years to make the state cover at least two-thirds of the cost,” writes The Washington Post. With an improved state economic outlook, Virginia lawmakers allocated $57.5 million to public colleges that agreed to freeze in-state tuition, all of which did so for the first time in almost 20 years, writes The Associated Press.
In addition, six schools—Christopher Newport University, George Mason University, Norfolk State University, Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Commonwealth University and Radford University—have frozen out-of-state tuition.
“I applaud our colleges and universities for stepping up to the plate and working alongside us in our effort to make college more affordable and more accessible to those who wish to attend,” Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R – Colonial Heights) told The Fairfax County Times.
“I hear time and time again from students who say their loans will follow them throughout most of their life,” said House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones (R – Suffolk). “When we started crafting this year’s budget I did so with those students in mind,” he added.
South Carolina tuition freeze ‘a first step’
In South Carolina, lawmakers increased the higher education budget by $36 million in exchange for a freeze in in-state tuition, with the exception of costs required to fulfill state mandates to cover health insurance and pension, writes The State.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) says there is still room to improve the budget and wrote in an open letter that he hopes this will be “a first step toward a comprehensive overhaul of higher education funding and tuition reform.” The legislature is considering a long-term solution to rapidly rising tuition costs. The proposed Opportunity Act, which has not yet passed the state Senate, “would create a $125 million trust fund fed by online sales tax while requiring public colleges and universities to limit how much they increase tuition.”