WASHINGTON – A suggestion to make the University of Virginia, one of the country’s prestigious public universities, into a private school was a shock to many alumni, students and taxpayers.
The Charlottsville-based taxpayer-supported school has more than 21,000 graduate and undergraduate students and boasts a distinguished alumni on a campus originally designed by Thomas Jefferson.
In a report made public earlier this month, the Public University Working Group on campus suggested that the school move toward privatization, weaning the school from state funding and state control.
But Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who appointed many of the current Board of Visitors members, says it’s not likely to happen.
“Thomas Jefferson would roll in his grave if he thought U.Va. was going to go private because he believed in a welcoming, world-class public education system,” McDonnell says.
“It’s a long way between a blue sky report and a Board of Visitors actually deciding to do that,” says McDonnell. “Look, U.Va. is the first- or second-ranked public university, non-military, in all of the country. It’s a great place.”
Tuition at the university for in-state students is considered affordable by current standards and the school has a huge $5 billion endowment. Moving to a private school would likely raise tuition at a school where 33 percent of the student body received some form of need-based financial aid last year.
The school recently revamped its student aid program to require more loans and fewer outright grants, making it less affordable for low-income students. The change prompted protests on campus.
The school has increased the number of out-of-state students accepted in order to bring in more income.
It costs more than $23,000 to attend U.Va. as an undergraduate, in-state student this school year. Out-of-state students can pay as much as $51,000.