In the regular session of its quarterly meeting on Saturday, March 4, 2023, via Zoom, the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Board of Trustees voted unanimously to increase its tuition, board, graduation and Wellness Center fees, many of which have not been adjusted for more than a decade. The measures were taken in response to rising operating costs and to address the financial needs of the University.
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve seven percent increases in tuition and 13 percent increases in board (meal plans) for the Fall Semester 2023 and Fall Semester 2024. The tuition increases will impact full-time and part-time undergraduate and graduate students including resident and non-resident students. The last increase in tuition was in the Fall of 2016.
“We are trying to increase the amount of scholarships that we are providing to students, especially our non-resident students,” said UVI President Dr. David Hall. “For our local students, who qualify for free tuition, this increase will have no effect at all, and we hope that even more of our students will take advantage of free tuition.”
The board fee increase will affect both Meal Plan A and Meal Plan B, which include 20 meals per week and 14 meals per week, respectively. In Fall 2023, Meal Plan A will increase from $5,780 to $6,530 and Meal Plan B will increase from $4,050 to $4,580. The meal plans fees have not been adjusted since 2011.
“The food services operations normally operate at least at a balanced budget, but recently, because of inflation and the cost of food going up, they have been operating at a deficit, and that deficit makes it difficult for us to meet the needs of students,” said President Hall.
With the cost of operating the Wellness Center on the Orville E. Kean Campus continuing to rise, the Board of Trustees voted to increase the Wellness Center fee for students from $24 to $50 per semester. Students on the Orville E. Kean Campus have unlimited access to the Wellness Center, which includes fitness equipment and exercise studios. The cost of using the center is built into the Student Activity Fee, which will increase from $44 to $70 per semester effective Fall Semester 2023.
The fee for students had stayed at $24 per semester since 2011, however this fee is not sufficient to address all of the needs of running the Wellness Center, Dr. Hall said. The proposed $50 per semester is very reasonable compared to what other universities are charging for similar types of wellness centers, but also the cost for attending and participating in fitness centers in the territory – especially in St. Thomas, he said.
During Saturday’s meeting, the Board of Trustees also voted unanimously to increase the graduation fee from $75 to $125 effective Fall 2023. The fee increase covers the cost of executing the commencement ceremonies and includes the cost of diplomas, and student’s caps and gowns. This fee has not been increased in two decades. The increase will not affect students graduating this May.
Before bringing these cost increases before the Board, the University held open student forums on both campuses and online via Zoom. “Our students had outstanding questions. They took the lead in organizing the events with us,” said President Hall.
“We would like to live in a world where we never have to increase prices, but the reality is to address the increasing costs that we are experiencing in certain areas, to address the budget deficit that the University faces, we think that this is a reasonable measure,” said President Hall.
The Board also approved the FY2023-2024 appropriation budget request of $43 million to cover salaries, benefits, equipment, supplies, and incidental expenses of the University for its operations and programs.
Dr. Hall had asked the Board to support the request to address unfunded mandates the University has had to absorb to include increases related to the Government Employees Retirement System, increases in health insurance, and property insurance increases since the hurricanes.
During the President’s Report, UVI President David Hall highlighted the achievements of UVI students and faculty as well as various University initiatives. As is customary during the Board meetings, Dr. Hall presented the President’s Appreciation Award in recognition of the excellence and commitment of those employees and UVI units that have performed exceptionally within the past quarter. Today, Dr. Hall announced the awards would go to two units, the School of Education (SOE) and the Information Systems and Institutional Assessment component.
“I wish to recognize Dr. Karen Brown, dean of the School of Education, and faculty members for their outstanding accomplishment of obtaining accreditation again,” stated Dr. Hall. “It sends a powerful message to local and national communities that there is quality education occurring within our School of Education.” In January, the SOE was awarded a full, 7-year accreditation by the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) for its educator preparation, school counseling, and educational leadership programs.
“This recognition is an affirmation of the school's commitment to provide students with quality
education programs that prepare them for successful careers as educators, counselors, and leaders in their respective fields,” said Dr. Hall. “Furthermore, AAQEP accreditation provides assurance that the school has met rigorous national standards and is engaged in continuous efforts to assess and improve the quality of its programs.”
The President’s Appreciation Award was also presented to the Information Systems and Institutional Assessment component for obtaining a $2.9 million transformative grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, through its National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Minority Broadband Initiative.
“I would like to recognize Vice President Sharlene Harris for obtaining the grant that is critical to addressing our infrastructure technology, upgrading our networks and making sure our transmission speeds are at a level that is commensurate with other institutions,” said Dr. Hall. “VP Harris did not achieve this alone. Ayesha Williams, associate vice president, and Erik Pattison, director of Network Operations, were also instrumental in being able to submit this grant and will be very essential to its implementation.”
“This timely award will help the University mitigate a recently identified risk to its network fiber infrastructure, upgrading all such networks from multi- to single-mode, thereby increasing transmission speeds,” said Dr. Hall. “This will support the University’s goal to foster robust broadband access, connectivity, and adoption throughout its campuses. Moreover, this grant will make a considerable impact on our institution's capacity to provide the highest-quality technological resources and improve educational outcomes for our students.”
In other business, the Board voted unanimously to approve a land swap of 0.822 acres of property to include a small portion the eastern part of the soccer field on the University’s Orville E. Kean Campus and land where West Bay Supermart was located, which belongs to the Virgin Islands Port Authority. For the University to complete the property transfer, the matter must go before the Virgin Islands Legislature.
While in executive session, the Board:
- Approved Executive Session Minutes
- Received a report and update on Risk Management from the Planning Committee
- Received an update on Board related matters
- Received an update on personnel matters
- Received an update on legal matters
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