BOV: W&M Promise a ‘Success’ as Program Enters Third Year

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The William & Mary Board of Visitors continued the William & Mary Promise program as part of its Fiscal Year 2016 budget. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)
The William & Mary Board of Visitors continued the William & Mary Promise program as part of its Fiscal Year 2016 budget. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)

With the William & Mary Promise beginning its third year, the College of William & Mary is ready to call the tuition control program a success.

The William & Mary Promise was launched in 2013 as a means of limiting the rise of the college’s in-state tuition by setting the rate for each class across their four years of undergraduate study. The program was first applied to the college’s class of 2017, who entered in the fall of 2013.

The college’s senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Sam Jones said the program had been a success to this point.

“It has achieved virtually all of the objectives we had for it,” Jones said. “It’s given the board monies to invest in their strategic priorities. It’s allowed us to give additional access to Virginia students. For families of need, it’s allowed us to give them better financial aid packages. And all of that while maintaining the quality of the student body and the quality of the faculty. We certainly, as an administration, are pleased, and I believe the board is pleased with how we’ve done.”

The college’s Board of Visitors set tuition guarantees for in-state students in three class cohorts when it launched the William & Mary Promise, and those figures have remained unchanged:

  • $10,428 per year for the class of 2017
  • $12,428 for the class of 2018
  • $13,978 for the class of 2019.

In-state students in the class of 2016 and all out-of-state students are not currently covered by the Promise program, and will see their tuition bills for next year rise by 2.4 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

The Board of Visitors was generally pleased with the effects of the Promise program thus far. In the program’s first year, the average student loan taken out by qualifying in-state students dropped from $3,889 to $3,027. In its second year, the average student loan amount was $3,311.

Board member H. Thomas Watkins III said the college should work to keep the student loan amount around the $3,027 achieved in year one of the program, but William & Mary president Taylor Reveley said $3,000 to $4,000 was “totally sustainable” debt for students.

“A kid borrowing three to four thousand dollars a year is going to borrow more than that to buy a car,” Reveley said.

While the Board of Visitors applauded the Promise’s benefits for in-state students, students not from Virginia will likely see their bills rise before receiving any financial relief from the college.

Board of Visitors Vice Rector Robert Scott said the Promise’s benefits had been achieved by “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” and asking out-of-state students to shoulder more of the financial burden.

William & Mary president Taylor Reveley said the price of out-of-state tuition was an issue that had to be addressed. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)
William & Mary president Taylor Reveley said the price of out-of-state tuition was an issue that had to be addressed. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)

Tuition for out-of-state students entering the college in the fall of 2014 was $34,132. While the total price tag – including fees, room and board – topped $50,000.

Scott said a figure of that magnitude could have a negative effect on the college’s student population, skewing it toward one side of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Jones said the college recognized out-of-state tuition was an issue, but does not currently have a plan in place to address it.

“We need more money for financial aid for out-of-state students,” he said. “Right now there’s no timeline to put in a tuition guarantee. We would like to think that we will have more financial aid for those students. All of that is dependent on fundraising. So as we raise funds from year to year, scholarships – all scholarships – but especially those for out-of-state students, are a high priority.”

The Promise also seeks to increase in-state access to the college by expanding the number of seats available to Virginia students. Jones said the college had added 160 in-state students and 88 out-of-state students since 2013, for a total student population increase of 248.

The Board of Visitors included the continued implementation of the Promise in its fiscal year 2016 budget, which it approved Friday.

One of the highlights of the $181.4 million education and general programs budget is a 4.5 percent salary pool supporting merit increases for faculty and a 2 percent merit pool for all staff.

Figures assembled by William & Mary administrators place its average faculty salaries in the 41st percentile of peer institutions. Both the college and the state have made it a goal to boost its position to the 60th percentile.

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