Board of Visitors updates budget for Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, discusses tuition plan for College at Wise

Expanded tuition plan would provide lower tuition rates to students from Appalachia

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Designed to memorialize the thousands of individuals who built and maintained the University, the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers will sit near Brooks Hall.

Courtesy University of Virginia

During a condensed Board of Visitors meeting in the Rotunda Wednesday afternoon, the Board approved an increase to the budget for the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. The discussion was initially intended to take place in a Finance Committee meeting, but was moved to a full-Board discussion due to schedule changes related to Hurricane Florence

The Board approved a $1 million addition to the budget for the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. The original budget for the project was $6 million, but after contractors estimated the project would cost at least $7 million, the budget was raised to match the updated figure. 

The memorial will honor the enslaved laborers who built the University and will be situated between the Rotunda and Brooks Hall. The memorial has been in the works since 2011 and received approval from the Board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee in June 2017. 

The Board also approved and endorsed amending the Code of Virginia in order to expand a reduced tuition program for out-of-state students attending the University’s College at Wise in southwest Virginia. 

The proposal calls for an expansion of the Tuition Assistance Grant program, which allows students from parts of Tennessee and Kentucky within 50 miles of Wise to pay a significantly discounted rate for tuition — roughly $11,000 per year, which is less than 40 percent of the fees paid by residents outside the area. Under the proposal, the area would be expanded to the federally-defined Appalachian Region, which spans parts or all of 13 states and 205,000 square miles. 

“This is a proposal that basically widens the net area from which Wise can pull out-of-state students and charge them a reduced tuition,” Wise Chancellor Donna Price Henry said during a presentation of the proposal to the Board. “For purposes of reporting and everything, those students would still be considered out-of-state students, but they would be able to be charged less than the current out-of-state tuition.”

The goal of the plan is to both to attract more out-of-state students to Wise and also to boost enrollment numbers at the school. Wise’s current enrollment is just over 2,000 students, a number that Henry hopes to raise to 3,000 within the coming years. 

While the Board approved and endorsed the proposal during the meeting, the proposal is still subject to approval by the Virginia General Assembly. 

The Board also announced that two public hearings will occur in September and November for University community members to discuss thoughts and concerns over the possibility of a state-initiated tuition hike. Board member James B. Murray Jr. said that the Board will discuss tuition more in-depth during its December meeting. The Board is working to hold the September and November forums with fourth-year College students Alex Cintron, the Student Council president, and Brendan Nigro, the student member of the Board.

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