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CNU increases tuition for faculty raises

Jordan Crawford | 10/17/2013, 9:54 a.m.
Christopher Newport University (CNU) staff will be getting raises in the near future.

Christopher Newport University (CNU) is planning to give its faculty 5 percent raises each year for the next six years, according to a plan approved by its board of visitors Thursday.

According to The Captain’s Log, while state funding for higher education remains slim, instructors’ and professors’ salaries are still frozen, and the cost of Virginia colleges continues to fall on the backs of students and their families.

However, a recent study shows Virginia college administrators are left unaffected.

The increases will be funded by raising school tuition. It is the first time since 2008 that CNU has given raises to its faculty, according to spokeswoman Lori Jacobs.

Tuition increases will also fund salary increases for targeted staff positions, enhancements to safety and security, new technology, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs.

Tuition could face additional increases if the state does not approve more financial support for the operating costs of buildings planned to open during 2014-2020.

A report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) published in January exposed that growing administrative expenditures have absorbed much of the increases in college tuition and fees in Virginia.

“A growing share of school funds is going to pay for layers and layers of administration,” the report said, citing that with the increase in college costs students nationwide pay 60 percent more for administrative expenses but only 30 percent more for instructors.

Virginia is not immune to this trend, as its institutions are shown in the report to have a vast inequality in the growth of its expenditures as well.

CNU is planning to increase the number of full-time instructional faculty from 268 to 300 during this time.

Other goals include increasing the average grade point average for incoming freshman, from 3.7 to 3.8; increasing the number of classes that have fewer than 20 students, from 47 percent to 55 percent; and achieving an 80 percent six-year graduation rate. The current six-year graduation rate is at 66 percent.

The university is also planning to pursue more research grants, add new academic minors and increase opportunities for students to participate in studying abroad programs.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) says that college affordability in Virginia is estimated this year to continue to surpass the least affordable record of 41.9 percent of per capita disposable income, climbing to 43.7 percent.

This is a remarkable difference from 2002, when the average total cost for in-state students living on campus was 32.2 percent of per capita disposable income.

CNU has increased its tuition by 50 percent since the 2004-05 academic year according to the ACTA. This is the highest percent change among all Virginia schools.

Some cite that the numerous building projects and the increase in selectivity in student admission have added more value to a degree from CNU.

Many CNU students feel that the value of a degree from the school has not grown comparable to a rise in tuition over the past six years, despite new facilities.

“It feels like the value is the same no matter how high the tuition is,” said junior Jeremy Henderson.

“With all the construction, I feel that we are paying more for it than for our own education,” said junior Brian McNure.

Although the funding for construction of new facilities has largely come from federal and state grants and the CNU Real Estate Foundation, the university does have to pay to maintain those buildings out of the general budget.

The estimated rise in tuition would also pay for an increase in financial aid for low and middle-income families struggling to keep up with the constant rise in tuition costs. Total tuition revenue to be committed to financial aid would nearly double from $485,000 to $850,000.

The planned tuition hike is probably meant to help fill a large gap left by years of continuous general fund reductions and the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

The act was a federal economic stimulus package in which CNU was allotted $3.5 million in 2010-11 to help off-set state general fund budget reductions and mitigate the need to increase tuition for in-state students, according to a SCHEV report.