"Our long-term strategy is to decrease our dependency on the state as much as we can," Steger said in his address last week. "You recognize that the money is not going to be there."
Steger said Virginia's universities "dodged a bullet" when the General Assembly settled on taking $69 million out of the general fund to use for transportation rather than the $250 million originally discussed.
The general fund supports health care, education and public safety programs.
Steger said he has discussed with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine the possibility of a higher education bond issue next year. The bond would provide $2 billion in aid to the state's public universities.
In 2002, voters approved a $900.5 million bond package to help fund campus construction projects. But additional costs associated with constructing new buildings and renovating old ones will mean Tech's resources will still be spread thin.
During the next six to eight years, Steger said he expects the university to spend $1 billion in construction, and he said Tech's next operating budget will be $1.2 billion. That's up from about $900 million this year.
"We don't have enough classrooms, don't have classrooms of the right size and we certainly don't have the communications infrastructure we need," he said.
With increasing enrollment, that all adds up over five years to a tuition that will likely be about 50 percent higher than it is today, he said. When room and board is included, the $11,739 it costs for the typical in-state student ranks lowest among all four-year public universities in the state. Amid laughter from faculty, Steger said, "I might get one letter a year about tuition increases. I get hundreds of letters a week about, you know, the bathrooms at Lane Stadium." Still, since a state-mandated tuition freeze was lifted in 2002, tuition rates at Tech have been increasing at about double the rate of the national average. Faculty Senate President Kerry Redican said that Steger's comments didn't surprise him, given the demands on higher education and the state budget. "I don't think there's anything that we can really do about it," he said. But on double-digit tuition increases, junior Emily Webb said, "Wow." Webb is director of government affairs for Tech's Student Government Association. She and other students lobbied in Richmond for increased state funding for higher education. "I think as long as the state keeps up its end of the bargain, tuition should not be jumping 10 percent a year," she said. Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said the increases are in the range of projections the university submitted to the state as part of its six-year plan. AP-ES-04-14-07 1402EDT