William & Mary confronts a nationwide enrollment crisis

"… ‘Unless we change our revenue stream or our cost model – that is, what we spend and how we spend it – then we would be in an ongoing cost-cutting mode for the foreseeable future to make sure that we remain in a balanced position,’ said Sam Jones, senior vice president for finance and administration, at the board meeting. ‘Now that’s a significant statement for us to make but it’s really what the data has shown.’

William & Mary relies on student tuition and fees as a major source of income, but as costs continue to rise, it’s not realistic long-term revenue, Jones said. For fiscal year 2020, student tuition and mandatory fees make up more than $200 million, or almost half of the school’s annual revenue in its proposed operating budget, up 4% from last year." …


Huh!?! Cost is not out of line for in state schools and W&M enjoys a stream of full pay at fairly large $s from OOS kids. I believe about a third of students from OOS.

Not sure why they are having this crisis unless other Virginia state schools do As well.

What an unnecessarily inflammatory headline! W&M is doing just fine. I presume this gloom and doom is part of their fundraising effort.

Honestly, a lot of the colleges are wasting money on useless majors and administrative costs. They hire an army of non teaching personnel that does not add anything of value to their mission and have a lot of programs that students could do without just fine.

Is that normal that tuition pays for 50 percent of the operating budget? Maybe I misread that.

I think for a public university, it’s not unusual - or even higher. Even for privates - Oberlin ran into some problems the past few years with less enrollment than expected.

I’ve heard for decades that tuition only covers 50% of operating costs at most competitive universities (referring to privates, though strong publics like W&M may be similar.) This is why endowment, research contracts, and alumni giving are so important.

Ok so why is this a problem at William and Mary? I know Bowdoin’s expenditure per student is above full priced tuition, room, and board. Of course colleges use revenue from endowments and alumni giving to make up the difference. Is the issue the size of W&M’s endowment? That it won’t be able to keep up with increases in costs? I don’t know why I’m so confused about this story. Lol.

These business models have more art than science behind them. Too much reliance on tuition and you are subject to enrollment shortfalls; too much reliance on endowment and the next stock market nosedive means years of painful cost cutting (or, borrowing, if you are lucky enough to have access to that kind of credit.) Fifty per cent sounds sort of low for a public university. Where’s the other fifty percent coming from, the state?

This is the part that stood out to me:

“At the board meeting Tim Wolfe, associate vice president for enrollment and dean of admission, said the school needs to consider the perception of a rising acceptance rate.
This year the college’s admission rate was around 38%, which has grown in recent years. When schools go above a 40% acceptance rate, they start to lose the impression of being a selective, top academic university, he said.”

In the past W&M and UVA (the state’s top 2 public schools) we’re both around 30-33% acceptance, and now W&M is up to 38% and UVA is down to 27%. Does that matter? Not to my daughter who chose W&M Early Decision. But it might matter to some.

The USN&WR focus on acceptance rate is so foolish. Self-selection plays a major role.

I think both the Oberlin situation and the one in this article have been framed inaccurately. Both schools have plenty of applicants, but are reluctant to go deeper into their respective applicant pools. It’s not an enrollment crisis, but a public perception problem, fueled as always by the USNews ranking system.

It may be a public perception problem, but from an admissions perspective that is a serious problem. W&M has the reputation for being an intense, rigorous school for serious students. When you sit it next to UVA, which any Virginian will tell you is very different from W&M in ethos but is very rigorous as well, high achieving students cannot help but compare. These are students that are happy to work hard for what they want, but if they have to work just as hard at UVA as W&M and the public perception is that it is easier to get into W&M, then in the long run W&M will probably yield fewer students from the pool it accepts. And when alumni perceive that their school is losing its selectivity, they are less enthusiastic about giving.

Mr. Jones is saying what has been said by professors and administrators at W&M for years - they have to be lean, and plan for a financial future that includes little state funding because every year they tend to get less and less. The focus on his statement should be the call to all Virginians to ask the legislature to improve funding to our institutions of higher education, for they are a valuable asset for all citizens of the Commonwealth.

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