January 22, 2019
A Model for Limiting Increases in Tuition and Fees at Public Colleges and Universities

In response to the skyrocketing price of college, states have enacted policies to limit how much public colleges and universities can raise their tuition and fees. As of Fiscal Year 2018, 14 states had a freeze or cap on in-state undergraduate tuition.

This year, Virginia Delegate David Reid (D-32) introduced HB 2476, which would create a model for determining which of Virginia’s public colleges and universities can raise their prices and by how much. Institutions that have kept price increases low over a 10-year period compared with the statewide average would be eligible to raise their prices. Allowable increases would then be based on some factor of the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U).  

The model includes a few things that we think are worth considering as a way to keep prices low:

The model proposes the following caps on tuition and fees at Virginia’s public colleges and universities:

Institutions like Virginia State University (VSU) and Old Dominion University (ODU) would be rewarded for keeping their price increases low over the past 10 years. They would be able to raise their prices based on an assigned multiplier to the percent change in the CPI-U. VSU would be able to raise its price by $241, and ODU would be able to raise its price by $227.

Christopher Newport University (CNU) and the College of William & Mary would not be eligible to raise their prices because their 10-year price increases were above the state average. They would essentially have to keep their prices flat next year.

Delegate Reid’s proposed model is consistent with recommended guidelines for states that choose to enact price freezes and caps.

We think the model merits serious discussion, especially if it results in price increases that are not just more predictable but also more manageable for students and families.