The Collegian
Monday, April 15, 2024

UR Curious: How is my tuition money spent?

At The Collegian, we want to write stories that matter to you. We asked readers to send in their questions and burning curiosities about the University of Richmond. No topic was too big or too small. We picked five of them, and our reporters have found the answers for you. One question and answer will be published each day this week. Read the other stories in the series here. And keep being curious. 

Someone recently asked The Collegian a question that undoubtedly populates the minds of college students across the nation: How is my tuition money spent? 

It’s a fair question. After all, some students at the university and their families pay up to $52,610 in tuition each year.

Here is a basic breakdown.

Tuition money accounts for about 38 percent of the university’s total budget, said Mark Detterick, senior associate vice president for finance and administration, in an email interview. It is allocated into three main categories: compensation, operating expenses and campus facilities, Detterick said.

About 59 percent of the tuition money that the school receives is directed toward compensation, or the payment of faculty and staff members. Approximately 29 percent is allocated toward operating expenses, a term that entails expenditures for university services such as food in the dining hall, travel funds for study abroad and general provisions such as office supplies and printers. The remaining 13 percent is used for expenses relating to the university’s various campus facilities.

So how did the university decide on this method of allocating tuition money?

Well, university leaders examine and update the allocation method in an annual budget-setting process that begins each September, Detterick said. The members of the budget office work with a university staff advisory council committee, known as the Planning and Priorities Committee, to examine the budget and its allocation.

The committee is made up of students, faculty members and staff members. It aims to shape institutional priorities for UR and develop a resource allocation method that is consistent with these priorities. 

University priorities, according to the strategic plan, include academic excellence, access and affordability, and enhanced alumni engagement, as well as a few others. To develop an allocation method, the committee members must examine university standards regarding the cost of tuition, the amount of financial aid to be distributed to students and many other key issues, said Dave Hale, executive vice president for business and finance, in an email interview.

Student involvement in the committee is vital to this process. “The students who serve on [the committee] play an important role expressing student perspectives and experiences,” Hale said. “Student committee member input is an important part of [the committee’s] deliberative process.”

Once the members of the Planning and Priorities Committee have properly examined the university’s key financial issues, they make recommendations to the president regarding the budget and its allocation, including recommendations regarding how to spend tuition money.

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Some students, when presented with the university’s tuition allocation method, said they were satisfied by the committee’s assessment of university priorities. 

“I think it’s nice that 59 percent goes into compensation,” first-year Daniel Kessler said. “If I was in charge, I would want that to be the biggest percentage as well.”

Others found that the figures were not what they expected. 

“I’m a little surprised that operating expenses aren’t more than 29 percent,” first-year Maeve McCormick said.

The way tuition money is spent has remained consistent in recent times. It has not undergone any significant changes over the past 10 years, Detterick said.

Contact news writer Alan Clancy at

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