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Tuition, Funding Policy and Students' Enrollment: A Twenty-Year Study for Public Four-Year Colleges and Universities in Virginia Open Access

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Fluctuations in tuition setting, vacillating state appropriations, and small state financial aid programs were incapable of providing enough consistency for Virginian undergraduates to make a reliable decision to enroll. Similarly, this inconsistency created unpredictability for students to access to higher education in Virginia. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the influence of the State of Virginia's tuition setting, financial aid, and funding policies on the undergraduate enrollment of Virginia public four-year higher education institutions for the past twenty years (1987-2007). The theoretical foundation was grounded in demand studies, and supported by the studies about government involvement in higher education. Fifteen public higher education institutions in Virginia were the units of analysis, and the ordinary least squares model (OLS) as well as the fixed effects model were the estimation models. The results showed in-state tuition and fees, and the Pell Grant had a negative influence on in-state enrollment, while state appropriations, state financial aid, tuition and fees for two-year institutions, and the unemployment rate of Virginia created a positive impact on in-state enrollment. Based on these findings, the state government of Virginia and the public higher education systems in Virginia should keep the promise of providing a more reliable and predictable tuition setting and funding scheme, release the future enrollment pressure via two-year public institutions and articulation agreements, and offer more state financial aid as well as institutional aid to students in need.

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