Dec 4, 2010

UVa President Proposes Adding 1,400 Undergrads over Next 4 Years

At the November Board of Visitors meeting, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan addressed likely requests for increased enrollment from the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education by proposing to add 1,400 undergraduate and 100 graduate students over the next four to five years.

“As we make our own plans in anticipation of the commission’s recommendations, we are operating on a few assumptions,” Sullivan said. “We assume the board will not condone this growth without assurances that we have adequate housing, dining, recreation spaces, need-based financial aid, and faculty and staff to serve the new students and protect the undergraduate experience.”

In response to the proposal, one student remarked, “Adding 1400 undergraduates in four or five years seems awfully quick to me. There is a general lack of parking and space as it is now.”

During the past decade, UVa’s enrollment has grown relatively slowly. Over a 10-year period ending in 2013, plans were in place to add 1,500 students to the undergraduate student body.

For the 2010-11 academic year, UVa has 14,297 undergraduate and 6,598 graduate students

Under President Sullivan’s proposal the current rate of growth would increase substantially and additional tuition could be used to help offset reductions in per student funding from the state. Off the record, UVa officials have noted that increasing the number of undergrads should help ward off huge tuition increases that might otherwise be in store for UVa students in future years.

UVa’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, Leonard W. Sandridge, argues that UVa can handle the additional students. Residence halls built in the 1960’s are being renovated and replaced. The Observatory Hill dining hall has already been expanded, and the dining area of Newcomb Hall is scheduled for renovation. Some new offices on the South Lawn will expand the university’s facilities for faculty and staff.

We feel very comfortable that we would be able to accommodate [President Sullivan’s proposed rate of growth],” Sandridge commented.

In October, the commission released a preliminary list of major recommendations for changes in Virginia’s public colleges and universities. These include enrolling more Virginians, granting more STEM degrees, enhancing research collaboration among state institutions, and improving utilization of technology in teaching.

President Sullivan made a number of recommendations to the commission that she believes supports the commission’s goals. For example, she proposed increasing enrollment of in-state students, particularly those pursuing STEM majors, and suggested greater use of technology-enhanced instruction to reach a greater number of students.

Some board members expressed deep concern about the harm that could be done by increasing enrollment without adequate financial support from the state.

University Rector John O. Wayne pointed out that most state legislators did not attend UVa and may not value the University’s status as a flagship institution. He warned of possible consequences of growth without adequate resources, “We will slowly decline. None of us wants that.”

Picture provided by Wikipedia.

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