In-state students across Virginia’s public colleges will pay an average of 5 percent more for tuition and mandatory fees this year.

Those undergraduate students will pay between $9,056 (Virginia State University) and $23,400 (the College of William & Mary) in tuition and mandatory fees for the coming academic year, with tuition rising an average of $612, according to this year’s State Council of Higher Education tuition report.

The average cost of room and board is also rising, albeit at a slower rate than tuition. Students will pay an average of $365, or 3.5 percent, more to stay and eat on campus.

Students at Virginia’s community colleges will pay $4,620 for tuition, while Richard Bland College is charging $8,100.

While no one thing has led to the rising cost of college, schools have had to compete for top faculty (and pay them high salaries), while also building and maintaining facilities that tour guides can tout on campus tours.

One in five dollars spent by a college is now dedicated to “student services,” according to a report by the American Institutes for Research, a D.C.-based research organization. That comes at the same time as schools have expanded their payrolls by 28 percent, according to the same research.

This year’s increase reflects a continuing trend in rising costs of higher education for students across Virginia and around the country.

At Richmond’s Virginia Commonwealth University, for example, tuition has more than doubled since the Great Recession. The college’s Board of Visitors raised tuition 6.4 percent for the coming year.

Students and their parents are picking up more of the check for college as states are contributing less.

The allocation of state dollars to higher education since the Great Recession has dropped 15 percent, below the national average of 11 percent, according to a March report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

For the first time ever last year, the majority of U.S. states relied more on tuition dollars than government appropriations to fund state higher education. Virginia broke that barrier in 2010, the report said.

With this year’s increases, students and their families will pay 55 percent of the cost, on average, at Virginia’s four-year schools, while the state pays 45 percent.

Virginia lawmakers committed in 2004 to covering two-thirds of the cost of higher education.

“The cost of higher education is a shared responsibility,” SCHEV Director Peter Blake said in a prepared statement. “This year’s report highlights the importance of aligning institutional costs, state support and student decision making. By doing so, every Virginian will find an affordable pathway to an outstanding college education.”

In the 2001-02 academic year, the state covered 77 percent of the cost, according to SCHEV.

Now 62 percent of Virginia students graduate with student loan debt, putting them an average of $29,974 in the hole, according to state data.

That is compared with 57 percent of graduates before the Great Recession, who had an average of $20,039 in student loans.

While close to 90 percent of students at Virginia’s public colleges are undergraduates, the more than 40,000 graduate students enrolled will also have to pay more.

Full-time in-state graduate students will see a 4.2 percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees, according to the report.

VCU’s 6.3 percent graduate student increase is the largest in the state.

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Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers K-12 schools and higher education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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