By Harry Minium

Old Dominion University's Board of Visitors voted unanimously Thursday to accept President John R. Broderick's recommendation to freeze tuition and mandatory fees for all students for the 2021-22 school year.

It is the third consecutive year that ODU has not increased tuition for in-state undergraduates and the second year in a row that it has frozen tuition for all students, including those from out of state.

However, it is the first time in decades, and perhaps ever, that the University has held the line on tuition and all mandatory fees for all students.

The action ensures that ODU will remain the most affordable doctoral institution in Virginia, said Greg DuBois, ODU's vice president for administration and finance.

ODU in-state undergraduates taking 30 hours of classes will spend $11,160 in yearly tuition and mandatory fees in 2021-22, the same as in 2020-21.

DuBois told the board that despite the pandemic, increases in state funding and enrollment are expected to provide the University with the resources necessary to avoid burdening students with additional costs.

President Broderick said holding the line on costs was important given how the pandemic has financially affected students and their families.

"We received historic General Assembly funding this year, and I believe the spirit of those allocations to higher education was aimed at doing everything possible to hold tuition during this pandemic year," he said.

"As a University that serves thousands of first-generation students and nearly 8,000 Pell-eligible students, cost is more than likely the number one determinant in retaining our students, and that was another important factor in my decision," President Broderick said. "In this COVID year, we had many students who have jobs to pay for schooling who had lost those positions. And as you know, many of our families not only suffered a loss of income, but a whole host of setbacks, including loss of life.

"This recommendation also ties very closely with our stated goal for the last 13 years of the importance and significance of student success on this campus."

ODU, like other universities, had expected a significant drop in enrollment last fall, but in part because of a comprehensive recruitment and marketing campaign, the University saw a 2.6% increase, from 23,675 students to 24,286. Enrollment for summer school is also more robust than it was in 2020, with a 40% increase for graduate course registrations.

"It is unprecedented for ODU to hold the line on tuition and mandatory fees for all students. This is something we should be very proud of," said DuBois.

Bridget Groble, student representative to the ODU board, said students will be relieved to know their costs aren't increasing in the fall.

"A lot of students and their families are struggling because of the pandemic," she said. "A lot of them are going to continue to struggle into the next year.

"President Broderick is very in tune with the struggles that many students experience. He's always been very keen to understand what students are going through."

The 2021-22 state budget approved by Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly included a base funding increase of $16.5 million for ODU and one-time funding of $2.8 million for unavoidable cost increases.

The state also earmarked $2.5 million each for Old Dominion and Norfolk State University to create a School of Public Health with Eastern Virginia Medical School. In addition, Sentara awarded a $4 million grant to Old Dominion and Norfolk State for the School of Public Health. Sentara also will invest up to $3 million to support collaboration among ODU, EVMS and NSU as they address public health and health inequities in underserved communities.

ODU will provide a 5% salary increase for all full-time employees and adjunct faculty, in part funded by the state, as well as a 5% increase for hourly employees.

The board also approved a final budget for the 2020-21 school year. Because of the pandemic and anticipated revenue shortfalls, ODU had been operating under a provisional budget.

The board is scheduled to approve the 2021-22 budget in June.

In his report to the board, President Broderick noted that ODU continues to become a more diverse University. Of ODU's 24,286 students last fall, 6,971 were African American and 2,050 were Latinx.

The number of African American and Latinx students has increased by more than 3,000 in the last decade, he reported.

Since 2008, ODU has nearly doubled the number of African American and Latinx students majoring in STEM-H (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health sciences) from 910 to 1,817.

"We're not only providing a growing tech pipeline but also a growing and diverse tech pipeline," President Broderick said.

President Broderick has promoted access to higher education for underrepresented minority and low-income students since assuming the presidency 13 years ago.

He spearheaded construction of ODU's $20 million Student Success Center and Learning Commons, where the University mentors and tutors students, including first-generation students, who often come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

ODU has emerged as a leader in addressing social mobility with the creation of the Center for Social Mobility and the annual Social Mobility Symposiums, which attract higher education leaders from across the country.

Most recently, the University was ranked in the top 50 globally and fourth nationally in the 2021 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for addressing inequality among college students.

"This is a remarkable record and recognition of what we've done," President Broderick said. "It in part reflects on our success in getting first-generation students to a degree and ultimately a better place for their lives and for their families."

ODU has become one of the state's most diverse institutions and has one of the nation's highest graduation rates for African Americans.

Under President Broderick's leadership, ODU has achieved its highest graduation and retention rates. The University has also received more than $1.1 billion in new sources of private and public revenue during his 13 years as presidency.

President Broderick, who is leaving the presidency this summer to become President Emeritus and Board of Visitors Distinguished Lecturer in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies, was honored for his transformational leadership at the meeting.

Rector Kay Kemper presented President Broderick with a commendation from the Virginia House of Delegates - HJR714 - for his "exemplary service." (To watch the House's approval of the resolution, go to this link.)

Kemper also announced that ODU has raised nearly $2.5 million for scholarship programs in honor of President Broderick and First Lady Kate Broderick. (To learn more about the scholarship programs, go to this link.)

The board was also briefed on the ODU Maritime Consortium, a new entity that will receive $280,000 in funding from the University in 2021-22. It will focus on the University's role in bringing economic development to Hampton Roads.

Nancy Grden, associate vice president of ODU's Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, told the board that the University will partner with area businesses and organizations to focus efforts to diversify the Hampton Roads economy through the maritime industry.

At President Broderick's direction, she and others, including Dubby Wynne, former president and CEO of Landmark Communications, have been discussing the new organization with local business and educational leaders as well as the campus community.

The consortium would become the point of contact and communication for companies seeking resources from ODU for maritime training and innovation.

Grden has met with deans of every college at ODU and said more than 60 degree programs are maritime-related. Some could be tweaked to better meet the needs of the private sector, she said.

"We have an amazing set of assets that we have not leveraged," she said.

"We need to diversify our jobs and expand reliance on the maritime industry and innovation," Wynne added. "You can't do that without an extraordinarily strong university. It has to be Old Dominion.

"Old Dominion is the 800-pound gorilla that can make something happen in this space."

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