Trustee Votes Project - Virginia

In most U.S. states, public college and university tuition and fees are set by public governing boards, often appointed by the governor. In setting the tuition and fee rate, these public officials weigh many factors, including institutional budget needs, available student aid, state investment levels, and consumer ability to pay. At the end of the day, the issue comes to a vote.

The Trustee Votes Project, which has been initiated as a pilot in Virginia, takes available (but often hard to decipher) public data from each institution on the tuition and fee votes of its board members. This database allows anyone to track the public votes of public officials in Virginia who vote on tuition and fee rates, including board member identification, affiliated institution, vote, percentage change in tuition rate, and appointing governor.

Our Public Policy Agenda

We believe a robust college affordability public policy agenda should address all aspects of the problem. Our focus is on root causes of skyrocketing prices that have led to the student debt crisis. The guiding question for our public policy agenda is: How can we better use public policy to increase the value of a college education by maintaining educational quality while reducing costs for students and families? As such, our public policy agenda addresses the interrelated domains below.
2020-21 and 2019-20
2019-20 and 2018-19
2018-19 and 2017-18
All Years

Why This Matters:

The Trustee Votes Project seeks to help restore public trust in higher education institutions by increasing transparency and strengthen institutional governance through stakeholder participation in decision making that affects consumers. Central to these objectives is public understanding of who makes decisions related to tuition and fees and what was decided.

Note 1:

The “Change” column indicates the annual percent increase of tuition and total mandatory fees for full-time, in-state undergraduates according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The annual increase compares an academic year to the previous academic year.

Note 2:

Although the University of Virginia’s College at Wise is a public state university, its board is not appointed by the governor. Furthermore, its tuition rate is officially set by the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. Therefore, individual votes of the UVA College at Wise board have not been posted.

Note 3:

Boards vote to set the tuition rate at different times of the year. For most Virginia boards, a tuition vote that took place in a given year, usually in the spring, went into effect later that year for the fall semester. However, the University of Virginia and College of William & Mary, as examples, vote at the end of the calendar year on a tuition rate that will go into effect for the following fall semester.

Note 4:

The William & Mary change in tuition and fees compares the change in rates for first-time freshmen and transfer students. Under the William & Mary Promise, tuition for in-state undergraduates is guaranteed not to change during their four years.

Note 5:

The James Madison change in tuition and fees compares the change in rates for first-time freshmen and transfer students with the change in rate for current students. Under The Madison Pledge, tuition for in-state is guaranteed not to change by more than three percent during their four years as long as  state funding for the university does not significantly decrease.


This database sources all public votes to public documents posted on institutional websites, often contained in board meeting minutes. For any questions or comments, contact Source data for tuition and mandatory fee increases can be found here and here.