By Harry Minium

Old Dominion University's Board of Visitors was presented Thursday morning with tuition and fee estimates for the 2020-21 academic year, which ranged from freezing tuition to a 5% increase.

In keeping with Gov. Ralph Northam's decree that state universities and colleges provide classes and hold meetings online, the Board met virtually.

Vice President for Administration and Finance Greg DuBois said no decision on setting tuition for 2020-21 will be made until the Board's next meeting on June 18.

Over the next seven weeks, ODU officials will assess the impact of proposed cost-cutting strategies, enrollment projections and potential state budget cuts before presenting the Board with proposed budget and tuition rates in June. The Board did not raise tuition for in-state students a year ago.

Even if the Board decides to raise tuition rates for the fall and spring semesters, summer semester tuition will remain at 2019-20 rates.

President John R. Broderick told that Board that ODU will face "significant financial challenges" as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that has forced businesses around the country to shut down and will reduce state tax revenue.

In the face of rising costs, ODU's tuition continues to be among the most affordable of any public doctoral institution in Virginia.

Given the pressure that the coronavirus pandemic has placed on many families, Broderick said that ODU will be flexible on deadlines this spring and summer to give students as much time as possible to decide whether to enroll.

"We expect to be registering students through the month of August," he said.

Broderick added that ODU may see an even greater influx of transfer students this year.

ODU, VCU and George Mason enroll about 70% of transfer students in Virginia. Broderick said ODU's success with transfer students - ODU has more transfer pathways than any other school in Virginia - and affordable tuition make it an attractive option for community college students.

Three ODU students spoke during the meeting. Stephen Greiling, the student representative to Board, and Student Government Association President Isaiah Lucas praised the University for its efforts to keep the tuition and fees and affordable.

"I ask that you keep in mind people like me, a first-generation student, and the University's commitment to social mobility," Lucas said.

Shawn Fleming, a junior from Richmond, spent much of his time praising ODU's communication efforts with students and faculty since the pandemic began.

"It was wonderful the way you operated," he said. "It was so fast and efficient."

He also praised the University for working to allow student workers who had on-campus jobs to telework.

"Those jobs are the main sources of our income," he said. "Thank you. It shows that you all care."

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