The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) issued a report today examining the impact of nonacademic services on the cost of a college education for students attending Virginia’s 15 public institutions of higher education.
These nonacademic services include athletics, dining services/meal plans, student housing and recreation facilities, which receive no funding from the state and are supported largely by student fees.
Longwood’s fees for these nonacademic services fall at different points compared with other institutions in the state. Overall, Longwood’s combined tuition and mandatory fees fall in the middle 50 percent of Virginia’s public colleges and universities, based on figures reported to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) for 2012-13.
In its report, JLARC commended Longwood for keeping its dining costs among the lowest in the state. The report highlighted Longwood’s innovative practice of requiring all freshmen receiving work-study aid to be employed in dining services as one factor in keeping costs low.
The report also called attention to Longwood’s athletics fee. The fee is higher at Longwood than other Virginia colleges and universities as a result of the university’s move to Division I in 2007-08, a decision that has both enhanced the college experience for Longwood students and increased the value of their degrees through improved public awareness of the university.
Longwood’s state-of-the-art fitness center, which opened in 2007, also requires higher student fees than recreation facilities at some of Virginia’s other public universities, according to the report. Longwood’s current fitness center is a vast improvement over the inadequate facility that previously served students.
Below is the text of a response to the commission’s report from Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV. The entire report can be found on the JLARC website.
August 28, 2013
Mr. Glen S. Tittermary, Director
Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission
Suite 1100, General Assembly Building
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Dear Mr. Tittermary:
Thank you for the opportunity to review and respond to the Commission’s report to the Governor and General Assembly on Non-Academic Services and Costs at Virginia’s Public Higher Education Institutions.
The Commonwealth and its public colleges and universities can indeed rightfully boast of providing the best public higher education in America — today just as has been true historically. Longwood, the third oldest public university in Virginia, celebrates its 175th anniversary this year.
Surveys regularly show that our students at Longwood deeply benefit from and enjoy their years here. Our University is a model of the classic tradition of residential liberal arts education. Most students clamor to live "on campus" and see the sense of community as a key facet of their college experience here. Campus housing is fundamentally important at other Virginia institutions as well, several of which place higher housing requirements on their students than do we.
Likewise, we are pleased that your report noted one of our unique programs, which reduces the cost of the meal plan for all students while helping our work study students meet a financial need and develop leadership skills. As you describe, all freshmen here who participate in the work study program must work in the dining hall, which lowers costs with our longtime private partner, ARAMARK. These work study students also receive in-service leadership training during this freshman year.
The Commission’s report recommends that Virginia’s colleges and universities seek new revenue streams for recreation and fitness centers to help offset costs. This summer in fact, as the Commission’s report was being prepared, Longwood began to open our Health & Fitness Center for a fee to the thousands each year attending conferences at the University. More broadly, we are mindful of the effects of opening the Center to the general public, which would have consequences for its use by our students, but also likely cause lasting harm to the local YMCA, which is a celebrated institution in the community.
Lastly, concerning athletics, as the report notes, this past spring Longwood completed its first year in the Big South Conference, with notable success in several sports. Division I athletics and our success in the Big South Conference have contributed to a deeper sense of pride and spirit throughout the campus. The "Lancer Lunatics," in fact, have become one of the largest student organizations at the University and last year they were recognized by the Naismith organization as the best student section in the Big South. The spirit of a place is intangible but consequential. At the same time, the University understands that Division I athletics are expensive, and this summer we have initiated focused efforts to off-set these costs. With greater philanthropy and prudent budgeting, we hope to hold the athletic fee constant for several years.
We appreciate the opportunity to respond to the Commission’s Report. Thank you for the fair-minded analysis and systematic review — a hallmark of JLARC’s work always.
W. Taylor Reveley IV
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