(WFXR) — The month of August is filled with move-in days, but also many financial woes for college students and their parents.

What do first-year and returning students need to know about tuition increases ahead of the fall semester?

For many students, the cost of education is one of the deciding factors for choosing where they want to go to school.

Back in June, Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors voted to raise tuition for graduates and undergraduates by 3%, with the university saying it is facing significant increases in cost.

Facing significant cost pressures including statewide employee compensation increases, operations and other fixed cost inflationary increases, and investments to enhance the quality of a Virginia Tech education, the Executive Committee approved a base 3 percent tuition increase for all undergraduate and graduate students. However, recognizing the financial challenges faced by Virginians and in the interest of continuing to expand access and affordability to a Virginia Tech education, the Executive Committee instructed the university to offset the tuition increase for the coming year with a one-time scholarship to all in-state undergraduate students, bringing the net undergraduate tuition increase to zero.

The board asked for and the university agreed to this one-time adjustment to effectively freeze tuition for in-state undergraduate students for the coming academic year, noting the recent rapid increase in inflation across the nation has not yet been met with a comparable increase in wages and salaries for students and their families.

Statement released on June 14, 2022 by Virginia Tech

“This year, they made the decision to raise the tuition by 3%, but with the caveat that says for in-state undergraduate students, we’re actually going to provide them with a one-year scholarship that will give them back the 3% increase,” said Mark Owczarski with Virginia Tech.

According to Owczarski, the university recognizes challenges faced by Virginians when it comes to the cost of an education.

So, their mission is to create access to affordable costs for all students.

“There are things we can do as a university, and that there are other resources at the state or even the federal level that can help students get the degree that they seek so they can invest in a career or a track,” explained Owczarski.

Virginia Tech’s mandatory fees will also go up, including room and board charges, which will increase by 4.9%.

However, not all colleges in the Commonwealth are increasing tuition. Some are keeping it the same, like New River Community College (NRCC).

“The state board for Virginia Community College System voted to keep tuition at the same rate. Actually, we have not had a tuition increase in the past five years,” said Peter Anderson, vice president for instruction and student services at NRCC.

Anderson says in-state tuition will remain $156.55 per credit, while fees will be $2.55.

He tells WFXR News that he is a product of the community college system, so he believes it is more of an affordable way to start an education.

“You may transfer to a Virginia Tech or Radford. We have lots of students who do that, but then we also have lots of students that come and take our technical programs and they get good, very good, high-paying jobs in our regions,” said Anderson.

Anderson adds that NRCC offers both the G3 and Access to Community College Education (ACCE) programs, which help Virginia residents with tuition assistance.

According to NRCC’s website, the G3 Program is for any Virginia resident who qualifies for in-state tuition and whose family income falls below an identified threshold. If students fit the eligibility requirements below, they may enroll in designated programs leading to jobs in high-demand fields:

  • Qualify for in-state tuition
  • Have a total household income of less than or equal to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (roughly an income of $100,000 for a family of four)
  • Be enrolled for a minimum of six credit hours in a Virginia community college
  • Be enrolled in a designated G3 Program
  • Apply for federal and/or state financial aid programs

Meanwhile, NRCC describes the ACCE Program as an economic development partnership that makes college available debt-free to high school and home-schooled graduates by funding NRCC tuition for two years.

Students will be able to graduate from NRCC and then prepare themselves to join the workforce or transfer to a four-year college or university without debt.

Students have to meet specific requirements to be enrolled in the ACCE Program:

  • Have at least a 2.5 grade point average (GPA) to qualify and maintain that 2.5 while in the program
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and complete all FAFSA-generated documents
  • Qualify for Virginia in-state tuition and reside in Floyd County, Giles County, Montgomery County, Pulaski County, or Radford at least one year prior to the ACCE application date
  • Complete at least 80 hours of community service annually
  • Maintain full-time enrollment of 12 credits
  • Pay tuition and fees for credits over 15 (funds will support up to 15 credits during fall and spring semesters)
  • Purchase their own textbooks, eBooks, and other digital course materials.
  • Enroll in a degree or certificate program that meets federal financial aid requirements
  • Take a College Success Skills course during the first semester at NRCC
  • Not take online courses during the first semester, except College Success Skills
  • Reimburse the program for any ACCE-sponsored course in which the student is unsuccessful.
  • Complete both English and math placement tests (unless you are exempt, but you can see the Career Coach for more information)
  • Be registered for classes by June 1 in order to receive ACCE funding.
  • Meet all ACCE deadlines

Other colleges are making bigger moves by lowering the cost of tuition, like Roanoke College.

“We took our publish price from $46,510 to $33,510, so that’s a 28% decrease in our tuition price,” said Frank Shushok, president of Roanoke College.

Shushok says even with the decrease in tuition, mandatory room and board and fees have increased by $386. However, school officials’ goal is to continue making Roanoke College more affordable.

“We are quite aware that college is expensive, and we want Roanoke College to be a place that is accessible,” Shushok said.

One way they do that is by decreasing the tuition depending on students’ GPAs.

“If you have a 3.0 or a 3.2 or even a 2.7, we automatically reduce that amount significantly,” explained Shushok.

According to Roanoke College, its Purpose, Life, And Career Exploration (PLACE) program is also dedicated to helping students explore their ambitions and goals through mentorship, experiential learning opportunities, and career preparation.

In short, Virginia Tech, NRCC, and Roanoke College all say it is important to see what financial aid and scholarships they offer, on top of federal aid, to know how much you would be paying for higher education.