Message from the President
A Message from the President to Longwood Students and Parents Regarding Tuition Increases
April 13, 2010
As you look to the next few years at Longwood University, you must be wondering what the future holds. Will Longwood continue to have top educational programs and be ranked in U. S. News & World Report? Will Longwood continue to have small class sizes where the faculty knows every student? Will Longwood continue to add new programs to meet the ever-changing needs of the marketplace? And, will Longwood remain affordable? These are all questions that the Board of Visitors and I have been grappling with as we look to the future.
A Lower Priority for Higher Education
These are trying economic times for everyone and we realize that rising tuition and fees impact both our students and their families. Public institutions of higher education have seen their budgets cut each year since 2008, sometimes multiple times per year. Longwood is facing an additional budget reduction of $836,798 in fiscal year 2011 (July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011) and an additional cut of $3,525,641 in fiscal year 2012 (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012), bringing our total reduction in State funds to over $9 million from 2008 through 2012.
Awaiting the Stimulus
While public institutions have been told that they will receive American Recovery and Revitalization Act (Stimulus) funds in 2010 and 2011 to help "offset the cuts," as of this week, we have not received these one-time funds that were appropriated on July 1, 2009 for fiscal year 2010. As one-time dollars, Stimulus funds cannot be used for ongoing obligations. Stimulus dollars cannot be relied upon to hire full-time faculty. Stimulus funds cannot be counted on for the future. It will be a one-time windfall, if and when it comes.
Since Stimulus dollars are one-time funds, they do not fix the hole left in our budget by the continuous budget reductions, but rather delay the impact of the budget reductions for two years. Unless there is a major improvement in the Commonwealth of Virginia's economy, the budget reductions will remain in place and we will be facing a tremendous loss of revenue at a time when our enrollments continue to increase and our fixed costs continue to rise.
Just as you or your family have seen an increase in electric bills, gas prices, insurance rates and all the other costs of living, Longwood has been facing increases in our fixed costs.
Longwood Budget Reductions
During this time of economic distress, Longwood University has made major reductions in its budget. While we have not laid off faculty or staff employees to this point, 20 vacant positions have been eliminated, the number of adjunct faculty we hire has been reduced, operating budgets have been reduced, library and lab hours have been reduced, and many cost-saving measures have been initiated. However, even with the actions we have taken, we cannot continue to reduce staff or operating budgets and still provide the same level of education and service to our students.
Decreased State Support
As a public institution of higher education, Longwood has two sources of revenue: the Commonwealth of Virginia and tuition and fees charged to our students. With State funding dropping by 24 percent since 2008, and an additional 12 percent expected in FY 2012, Longwood is experiencing a significant shortfall in the amount of funds it needs.
The Longwood University Board of Visitors knows that Longwood provides a quality education for students who want an experience that allows them to be a name and not a number to the faculty, where citizen leadership is a cornerstone of the educational experience, where opportunities abound for students to participate and serve in student government and other organizations, and where students get an edge in the job market due to the required internship program.
Meeting the Cost of Excellence
To this end, sustainable funding is critical for Longwood University to continue to:
- hire and retain excellent faculty and staff who will provide interactive learning experience, both in and out of the classroom;
- sustain our academic programs at the highest quality level;
- maintain appropriate class sizes for a meaningful learning environment;
- provide enhanced student services such as security, health, fitness, and wellness;
- provide better career preparation and advising;
- offer improved financial aid opportunities; and,
- bring prominent leaders to campus.
Tuition and Fees Must Increase
While we do not like raising our tuition and fees, especially during these tough times, we know that with the loss of State dollars that we must do so in order to continue the high quality educational opportunities that Longwood provides.
In order to fill the budget gap, the Longwood University Board of Visitors has decided that it is in the best interest of our students and their families to phase-in the needed increases over time. While tuition and mandatory fee increases near 10 percent each year are not desirable, they are more realistic and easier for students to deal with than a 20 percent or more increase at one time. Spreading the tuition increases over 2011 and 2012 ensures that our students are not unduly impacted in 2012 when the one-time stimulus dollars are gone, yet the hole left by budget reductions has increased.
Hope for the Future
The best scenario is for Virginia's economy to rebound more quickly than predicted; however, at this time, there are no indications that this will occur. We will continue to monitor the State's budget situation and hope that there is improvement that will mediate future tuition and fee increases. We do not want to compromise the quality of the educational experience offered at Longwood University, yet we must remain mindful of what our students and families can afford. It is my hope that the coming years will be more prosperous than the last few years and we can once again reach a more balanced budget reflecting funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia and tuition and fee revenues. We will continue to keep you informed.
Patricia P. Cormier