Charting student opinion
The Chartered University Initiative has been criticized by staff members concerned they may lose job security and benefits and students who note, as the administration acknowledges, that tuition rates will increase substantially under the plan. Though the initiative remains worthy of consideration because it could reverse the University's chronic underfunding, these concerns must be addressed as the proposal goes forward.
The tuition increases are particularly worrisome. As a public school, the University ought to serve the people of the state, not a privileged few. Tuition policy must reflect this fact by ensuring that anyone, even the most impoverished student, can attend the University if accepted.
In response to such concerns, administrators tout the increased financial aid promised under Access U.Va. Yet merely noting Access U.Va.'s existence is an insufficient response. Students need to know what will prevent future administrations from reneging on this promise and whether other universities that pursue charter status will offer equally generous aid programs. The chartered agreement template, as it appears on the University's Web site, requires schools to provide financial aid so that any in-state student can attend, but, unlike Access U.Va., does not offer these benefits to out-of-state students or specify whether the aid will take the form of grants or loans -- a key distinction given the potential burden of substantial loans.
Given the possibility of major tuition hikes, Student Council ought to be casting a skeptical eye on the charter plan. What our student government is doing rarely has any relation to what it ought to be doing, however, and Council unanimously endorsed the plan this week.
Nonetheless, administrators should seek out opinions from the student body at large. Such communication can serve the dual purpose of incorporating student input into the charter bill and demonstrating to students that administrators care what they think about a plan that will force them to pay thousands of dollars more. For if students, faculty and staff cannot trust the administration to be responsive to their concerns now, there is no reason we should trust them to be responsible with the added power afforded them under the charter plan.