Gov. Ralph Northam signed House Bill 1666 into law Wednesday, giving UVa-Wise the ability to offer in-state tuition levels to qualifying students in the federal Appalachian Regional Commission’s service area.
“The ability to offer reduced tuition throughout the Appalachian Regional Commission will open new opportunities for students from all parts of Appalachia and will allow us to substantially expand our recruiting efforts,” UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry said on Wednesday. “It is a game-changer for UVa-Wise.”
According to the bill, the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors now can charge tuition as low as the in-state rate to students in the ARC region who enroll at UVa-Wise.
That area covers all of West Virginia and parts of 11 more eastern and southern Appalachian states from New York to Mississippi.
The new tuition provision applies to students living in the ARC states who would be eligible for in-state tuition in colleges and universities in the region.
“UVa-Wise has strong academic programs and successful graduates, and we are eager to share that success with students from New York to Mississippi,” Henry said. “Our college has a strong story to tell, and our recruiters are eager to spread the word about UVa-Wise.”
According to UVa-Wise Communications Director Kathy Still, the bill gives the college a way to combat the sort of declining enrollment facing colleges and universities across the U.S.
UVa-Wise is closer geographically to seven other state capitals than Richmond, Still noted.
The college for several years has been able to offer reduced tuition to eligible Kentucky and Tennessee students within a 50-mile radius of the college.
Still said UVa-Wise recruiters plan initially to target students who live in communities that are about a three-hour radius from campus.
Students from that area are already familiar with what the college offers, she said, and the expanded reach could mean a large increase in athletic recruiting for the college as it prepares to move into the NCAA’s Division II South Atlantic Conference next year.
A planned marketing and branding campaign for UVa-Wise will also include efforts in the 420 counties of the ARC region, Still said.
Henry credited state Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, and state Sens. Bill Carrico, R-Independence, and Ben Chafin, RLebanon, for helping to carry the tuition bill through the General Assembly.
“I am also thankful for the support the legislation received from our regional legislative delegation, and I am grateful to all the Virginia lawmakers who overwhelmingly supported the measure,” Henry said.
According to Still, UVa-Wise Vice Chancellor for Finance Sim Ewing in September projected that adding just 50 students from the ARC region could bring the college $1 million in tuition, fees and room and board.
Local retailers could see as much as $150,000 in revenue, and localities near the college could see more than $8,000 in additional local and state taxes, Ewing said.
If 50 new ARC region students were added per year, according to Ewing, UVa-Wise and the surrounding community could see as much as $4.6 million in economic impact without direct costs to the state.
Ewing said that enrollment increase would mean no direct state costs because UVa-Wise has the capacity to handle such enrollment growth.