Mak­ing room for Va.’s own at top schools

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY ANITA KU­MAR

rich­mond— Each spring, a num­ber of high school stu­dents in North­ern Vir­ginia with near-per­fect grade­point av­er­ages, top-notch SAT scores and a long list of ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties re­ceive dis­ap­point­ing news.

They’re shut out of Vir­ginia’s premier schools — par­tic­u­larly the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia and the Col­lege of Wil­liam and Mary — los­ing slots to out-of-state stu­dents who pay triple the cost of those in-state and sub­si­dize the state’s cash-strapped schools.

“I put all my eggs in that U-Va. bas­ket,’’ said Lee Sei­d­ner of Fair­fax County, who boasted a 3.99 GPA, 1300 on his SAT, eight Ad­vanced Place­ment classes and a range of ac­tiv­i­ties from Na­tional Honor So­ci­ety to jazz band. “I felt I was qual­i­fied.”

Sei­d­ner tried ev­ery­thing to get off the wait­ing list at U-Va. Even­tu­ally, he ended up at Vir­ginia Tech.

“We pay very high taxes here, and I

just didn’t think it was right,’’ said his mother, Sher­rell Panoff of Chan­tilly.

For more than five years, state law­mak­ers have de­bated how to get more of Vir­ginia’s best and bright­est stu­dents into its state schools, but they haven’t agreed on a so­lu­tion.

This year, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) is propos­ing an ad­di­tional $58 mil­lion for Vir­ginia’s col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties as he launches a goal of award­ing 100,000 ad­di­tional as­so­ci­ate’s and bach­e­lor’s de­grees over the next 15 years.

McDonnell said the plan will help in­crease the over­all num­ber of stu­dents at state schools, mak­ing more in-state slots avail­able.

“If you have 100,000 new de­grees over the next 15 years, the over­whelm­ing share are go­ing to go to Vir­gini­ans,’’ he said. “And a huge per­cent­age will go to North­ern Vir­gini­ans.”

Leg­is­la­tors of both par­ties have praised McDonnell’s plan, part of a pack­age of higher-ed­u­ca­tion pro­pos­als the gover­nor has rec­om­mended dur­ing this an­nual leg­isla­tive ses­sion, but some don’t con­sider it ag­gres­sive enough.

One North­ern Vir­ginia leg­is­la­tor has in­tro­duced a bill that would cap the num­ber of out-of­s­tate stu­dents ad­mit­ted to state pub­lic schools. An­other wanted to re­quire schools to charge more for out-of-state tu­ition in the hopes that fewer stu­dents from out­side Vir­ginia would need to be ad­mit­ted in the fu­ture.

Col­lege of­fi­cials gen­er­ally fa­vor McDonnell’s more-grad­ual ap­proach to ex­pan­sion, but only if the state of­fers enough money to pay for it.

Schools have faced years of bud­get cuts, and fed­eral stim­u­lus dol­lars — which helped filled in some of the gaps — are about to run out.

U-Va. Pres­i­dent Teresa Sul­li­van said the state’s flag­ship uni­ver­sity is em­bark­ing on its own pro­grams to in­crease en­roll­ment by more than 1,000 Vir­gini­ans over the next five years but is op­posed to spe­cific quo­tas or caps.

“ The Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia wouldn’t be the same place if we did that,’’ she said.

No ‘sin­gle so­lu­tion’

Frus­tra­tion over Vir­ginia stu­dents get­ting shut out of the state’s top schools in re­cent years has led to fiery speeches on the floor of the House of Del­e­gates and back­room ne­go­ti­a­tions.

To make his point, Del. Timo- thy D. Hugo (R-Fair­fax) of­ten refers to U-Va. as the “Uni­ver­sity of New Jersey-Char­lottesville” cam­pus and Wil­liam and Mary as the “Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia-Wil­liams­burg” to re­flect the grow­ing num­ber of stu­dents from New Jersey, New York and Penn­syl­va­nia.

State guide­lines call for schools to re­ject out-of-state un­der­grad­u­ates if that pop­u­la­tion rises above 25 per­cent, but state of­fi­cials have never en­forced the pol­icy.

About 81 per­cent of stu­dents at­tend­ing pub­lic schools in Vir­ginia are state res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to the State Coun­cil of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion. The num­bers are much lower at the four topranked schools: 67 per­cent at U-Va., 67 per­cent at Wil­liam and Mary, 72 per­cent at James Madi­son Uni­ver­sity and 74 per­cent at Vir­ginia Tech, ac­cord­ing to the coun­cil.

Hugo and Del. David B. Albo (R-Fair­fax) are spon­sor­ing a pro­posal to limit the num­ber of outof-state stu­dents at Vir­ginia’s schools to 25 per­cent. Their bill calls for pub­lic four-school col­leges — ex­cept for the state’s his­tor­i­cally black schools, Nor­folk State Uni­ver­sity and Vir­ginia State Uni­ver­sity, and the Vir­ginia Mil­i­tary In­sti­tute — to set aside at least 75 per­cent of fresh­man slots. Schools would have to in­crease out-of-state tu­ition and fees to make up for the de­crease in stu­dents.

“Some­times it’s a multi-year en­deavor,’’ Hugo said. “I don’t think there’s a sin­gle so­lu­tion.”

The state’s top schools op­pose quo­tas, say­ing that they would lose mil­lions of dol­lars a year by lim­it­ing out-of-state stu­dents. At U-Va. and Wil­liam and Mary, tu­ition and fees for out-of-state stu­dents are about triple that of in-state stu­dents. At Vir­ginia Tech and JMU, they are about dou­ble.

“When the state is cut­ting fund­ing 50 per­cent over eight years, we need fund­ing from outof-state stu­dents,’’ said Larry Hincker, as­so­ci­ate vice pres­i­dent for uni­ver­sity re­la­tions at Vir­ginia Tech.

Wor­ries about quo­tas

Matt Har­ris, a Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Uni­ver­sity se­nior and stu­dent govern­ment as­so­ci­a­tion mem­ber, said he wor­ries that the qual­ity of the stu­dent body will slip if schools are forced to ex­pand their pool to meet an ar­bi­trary num­ber. “I don’t think that’s the so­lu­tion,” he said.

Tom Kramer, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Vir­ginia 21, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that lob­bies on be­half of 50,000 stu­dents across the state, said he wor­ries that stu­dents would look else­where if the cost of tu­ition went up.

McDonnell says caps on ad­mis­sions or tu­ition are not nec­es­sary.

He wants to in­crease the num­ber of Vir­gini­ans with col­lege de­grees from 42 to 55 per­cent by chang­ing the way schools are funded — pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives to ful­fill goals, such as grad­u­at­ing more stu­dents in four years, award­ing more de­grees in high-de­mand sci­ence and technology fields, and lim­it­ing the time re­quired to at­tain a de­gree.

“Rather than take the ex­ist­ing pie, which is too small, and carve it up with a quota for Vir­gini­ans, what we’re do­ing is ex­pand­ing the pie . . . cre­at­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for both in-state and out-of­s­tate stu­dents,’’ he said.

“I think we can get a lot more kids in with­out hav­ing a quota sys­tem.”

In the past few years, the Repub­li­can-led House of Del­e­gates has de­bated bills to in­crease the num­ber of in-state stu­dents. This year, McDonnell’s broad pro­posal has been in­tro­duced in the House and the Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate.

Sen. R. Ed­ward Houck (D-Spot­syl­va­nia), who in­tro­duced the bill in the Se­nate, of­ten de­scribes the changes as the most sig­nif­i­cant since the cre­ation of the com­mu­nity col­lege sys­tem four decades ago.

About 409,000 stu­dents at­tend the state’s 15 pub­lic four-year schools, 23 com­mu­nity col­leges and one pub­lic ju­nior col­lege — mak­ing the sys­tem the 11th largest higher-ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram in the nation.

Brian Whit­son, Wil­liam and Mary’s di­rec­tor of uni­ver­sity re­la­tions, said the Wil­liams­burg school has al­ready grown about 10 per­cent since 2000 and that it needs to ex­pand at its own pace. The school has 5,800 un­der­grad­u­ates and 2,000 grad­u­ate stu­dents.

“Our size is a good part of who we are,’’ he said.


Lee Sei­d­ner, right, a ju­nior at Vir­ginia Tech, has lunch with friends Carolyn Korch, left, and Kelsey Lund in Blacks­burg.

Sei­d­ner, a mu­sic ma­jor, was sur­prised that he couldn’t get ac­cepted to U-Va., given his 3.99 GPA, 1300 on his SAT, eight Ad­vanced Place­ment classes and a range of ac­tiv­i­ties. “I put allmy eggs in that U-Va. bas­ket,” Sei­d­ner said.

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