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Arts & Sciences Graduate students see tuition increase

Zelikow says changes close 'continuous enrollment' loophole; students worry about increased financial burden

A recent proposal to raise graduate school tuition for doctoral candidates by nearly $4,000 for the next academic year is part of an effort to ultimately lower tuition costs, according to Associate Dean for Graduate Academic Programs Philip Zelikow.

Monday Feb. 25, graduate students in the history department were greeted with an email from Assoc. History Prof. Max Edelson, the director of history department graduate studies, detailing the proposal: “Under its terms, the total costs of tuition and fees will increase for doctoral students in the third year of study and beyond to $7,382 per year. For students on non-resident status, the total costs of enrollment will rise to $4,520 per year.”

The proposal will majorly affect students with non-resident status — students who do not study on Grounds or use University facilities. The current tuition program charges students with non-resident status the same as any other doctoral candidate.

“Under the current system there is no difference in fees you pay here or away, and we’ve reformed the system to reduce the fees,” Zelikow said. “Many students who study abroad now are being charged tuition and full University fees — their number will be significantly reduced.”

Many students, however, reported only having to pay a $4200 fee for their non-resident status in recent years rather than full tuition and fees. Arts & Sciences graduate student Kristen Lashua, a doctoral candidate in the history department, is one such student. “I spent all semester in London on my history dissertation, and in the old plan being nominally involved in U.Va. doing these programs was only $200 dollars so it didn’t pose that big of a financial burden, but under this new reform it would cost several thousand dollars,” she said.

Zelikow said, however, that students who have been paying only a $200 fee for non-resident status have been abusing a program of continuous enrollment which was not designed for doctoral candidates simply completing work away from the University.

“The separate issue is we’re curbing abuse of continuous enrollment system [for these doctoral candidates] because that’s not an appropriate use — if you’re a student you should be paying your fair share,” Zelikow said.

In addition to curbing the abuse of continual enrollment, the new proposal seeks to generate more revenue for individual departments, and to incentivize students to complete their dissertations more quickly so as to avoid incurring the additional fees.

Arts & Sciences graduate student Jim Ambuske, a doctoral candidate in the history department, described the new financial program as a “stick-and-carrot for students to finish faster to avoid tuition increases.”

Doctoral students have also expressed concern as to how the department will assist students who will be negatively affected by the new changes.

The February 25 email announcing the raise vaguely addressed this concern. “We are taking special note of those of you who may face an unexpected burden next year because of this higher tuition charge, and we will petition on your behalf to cushion the blow of this increase,”
Edelson said.

This vague language, however, has done little to alleviate graduate students’ fears, Ambuske said. “We’d like to know more about it; what would make more people at ease is if we had understanding of how the budgetary process is going to work,” he said. “The graduate school administration has said there will be bridge funding for the old funding model into new model, but we don’t know what that means and haven’t yet seen a dollar figure.”

Although the new tuition fees will apply to doctoral students across all graduate departments, students are also concerned departments that do not typically receive large grants or other outside funding will be disproportionately affected.

“The tuition hike doesn’t affect [certain students] because some outside source is paying that money, whereas in the history department that’s not the case,” Lashua said. “Most of graduate schooling isn’t going to be funded by outside sources.”

The change is also a departure from a credit-hour-based tuition system that charged students depending on the number of classes in which they were enrolled. Doctoral students will now be charged a flat rate based on their year of study.

The new rates will go into effect in the fall semester, pending approval by the Board of Visitors during its meeting in April.


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