The passage of the Morrill Act of 1862 was a defining moment for public education in America. The legislation, named for Rep. Justin Morrill of Vermont, established a system of land-grant colleges.

According to Cornell University Professor of Government Suzanne Mettler, the law “created a new educational model that combined traditional liberal-arts education with training in agriculture, the natural sciences, and teaching.”

Mettler says that by opening the fields of study, colleges began reaching out to a broader segment of the public.

The country built upon the Morrill Act over the years by creating black colleges and passing the GI Bill so WWII veterans could attend college.  All the while, the federal government and states heavily subsidized the schools.

The reason for the significant taxpayer subsidy was two-fold: it was consistent with the belief that society benefits on multiple levels with a better educated population and it kept tuition and fees low so more students had a chance to attend.

West Virginia University has been a perfect example of the benefits of the Morrill Act.  The land-grant institution offers degrees from Accounting to World Languages in 17 distinct colleges and schools. The University opens its doors wide for aspiring students, even if they don’t meet the highest academic standards.

Historically, WVU has been an incredible bargain.  However, that’s changing.

Last week, the WVU Board of Governors approved yet another increase in tuition and fees—eight percent for in-state students and four percent for out-of-state.  For the upcoming academic year, West Virginia students will pay nearly $7,000 a year just to get in the door, before books and living expenses, while non-residents will pay about $20,000.

For in-state students that translates into a 77 percent increase in just ten years (from $3,938 for 2004-2005 to $6,968 for 2014-2015) and a 69 percent increase for out-of-state students ($12,060 for 2004-2005 to $20,424 for 2014-2015).

Tuition and fees at WVU have risen three times the rate of inflation over that period.

A critical factor in the dramatic increase has been a corresponding decline in state support.  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the share of the University’s revenue from the state has dropped from 61 percent in 1987 to 34 percent in 2012.

WVU is not alone in this conundrum.  Mettler reports, “The vast network of state universities and community colleges continues to enroll 73 percent of all college students, but between 1990-91 and 2009, state governments decreased funding for them by an average of 26 percent in real terms—even as operating costs increased.”

One result is that students have to take on more college loans. The Project on Student Debt reports that the average debt for a WVU graduate in 2012 was nearly $28,000.

What’s the solution?  The options include more grant programs, leaner institutions, the community college route for some students, more on-line courses and increasing pressure on government to invest more in higher education, to name a few.

It’s evident, however, that the historic alliance between state supported schools and the state itself, one whose roots date back to the 18th century, is becoming strained.

In the meantime, WVU remains a good investment for students, at least those who apply themselves and take full advantage of what WVU has to offer; it’s just not the bargain it once was.



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  • Jonesy

    Why not use some of that Big 12 $ to help the students. If it were not for the students we would not have a school nor an athletic program.

    • AJ

      not even remotely enough. Athletic facilitates are still among the worst in the nation. We'll need more than Big XII money to make it semi decent.

      State needs to step up to the plate a little more to help make WVU among the best academic research institutions in the nation.

      • Aaron

        By law, if a student graduates from an accredited WV high school and scores a minimal ACT score, WVU must accept them as a student even if the student takes all remedial courses. With minimal academic success in the first semester, subpar students are placed on academic probation and are allowed to attend a second semester before being expelled for academic reasons. One in four WVU students are gone after the first year.

        Such students result in a low graduation rate as well below 40% graduate in 4 years. That number improves to 59% in 6 years but requires a high number of adjunct instructors, all of which hurt WVU's academic standing.

        Were WVU to support a community college in Morgantown, they could direct questionable students there and add PhD staff to raise their academic standing but both would cost the University money. As numerous administrations have understood the problems but did little to address them, it would appear the these issues are secondary to the money brought in by borderline students.

        • Hillboy

          I question the connection you make between the number of subpar students and the number of adjuncts. I think you could just as easily make the case that the university relies on adjuncts to save money to pay for the huge number of overpaid administrators. Really, there are adjuncts and grad students teaching at almost every level, not just the first year.

          • Aaron

            Regardless of why WVU has as many adjuncts as they do, the number is high and hurts them academic standing. That is not my opinion, that comes from various sources that rank Colleges and Universities and is a primary argument of both the Big 10 and ACC in their disfavor of WVU regarding admittance to their conferences.

    • CaptainQ


  • vashti

    my out of state tuition when i went to school at WVU was $756 a semester. it was cheaper than my in state tuition had been in Pennsylvania. my father paid for my tuition out of pocket. our deal with dad was he would pay the tuition but we had to finish. if we quit we had to pay him back every penny he had expended on our college tuition. after about 2 years (i had a child and i worked part time) i talked about quitting. he handed me a bill which at the time i thought was exorbitant so i did not quit. looking back on it it was not that much money but it sure did seem so at the time.
    WVU is still a bargain comparatively speaking. the job market on the other hand is a rough world to live in right now. i have a son who is a college drop out, a son who is a grad school graduate and a son who is a high school drop out. all of them work and are struggling. my middle son, the MBA grad, has finally found a decent job and has retained his part time gig with the Tampa Bay Rays (mainly for the parking pass) but it has been a long haul and very expensive. The oldest two had scholarships that did not cover the total costs. The Promise scholarship was a help for my middle son but he took a job to cover other costs and between working and school was not able to maintain the grade point average. he chose to take out loans and work rather than live at home. a choice he may regret now but seemed very grown up to him at the time.
    at any rate WVU was still a bargain for him and he owes less than his brother would have had he graduated from Boston University. sooo althought the tuition has soared it is still lower than other schools in state tuitions. And after all there is a lot to be said fro being able to say you are WVU mountaineer grad! they are everywhere you know.

  • WVU 74

    Hoppy, the Pew Research Center (a favorite of yours, I think) recently published results of a survey in the New Your Times of June 1.

    Included was another survey from Bentley University that showed more than half of corporate recruiters rated recent college graduates with a grade of C or lower. The Bentley report specifically noted lack of attitudes and behavior needed for job success. Hiring managers noted new college graduates are not motivated and do not take initiative. They are under dependable and not committed to their employers. They need constant affirmation and expect rapid advancement. That is telling.

    The Pew Center found that more than half of college Presidents thought today's incoming Freshmen class were not prepared to begin college level study. In fact, they study less in high school than students did a decade ago.

    This is the most affirmed generation in US history. They've been raised to believe they can do whatever they want to, get everything they want, and get it yesterday! They truly their degree verifies they have the skills and talents to bring to a job setting.

    Now this 4 year or 5 year academic period in their young lives is going to cost them more. Forget about "working your way through college", you can't earn enough doing part-time jobs. Dr. Gee and others have put that out-of-reach. For most of them, graduation is a tremendous wake-up transition between their expectations and the reality of getting employed.

    • Hillboy

      I don't put much stock in these types of surveys. How would you possibly maintain some level of consistent evaluation by corporate recruiters so that you could make a judgement about an entire generation? What would make a college president qualified to know whether incoming freshmen are sufficiently prepared? Most college presidents spend more time with donors than students.

    • WVUinDE

      You didn't learn proper grammar way back in 1974, long before young people became "the most affirmed generation in US history"? You obviously don't know many young people today, or you're too busy yelling at them to get off your lawn. They’re smart and very hard working. They don’t expect the world to be given to them.

      Why wouldn't tuition skyrocket with the athletic department running the campus? Do away with big money football and educational costs will come down. Most students on campus could care less about the football team. How can a poor state like West Virginia afford an $80 million per year athletic budget?

      • WVU 74

        Didn't have to know proper grammar in 1974. I was an Engineering School graduate. But you are correct in that I no longer know many young people. That comes from being retired from my own business, and living in an over 55 Active Adult gated community.

        Didn't know the Athletic Department was running the WVU campus. I've never been back to Morgantown. But I thought the subject was the current tuition increase, and if that increase was of any benefit in attending WVU. You're free to interpret my comments as you desire.

        I'll give young people this much. They don't hold a monopoly on attitudes toward work and career. Young people of today have nothing on my generation of the 1960s. We knew we were getting screwed.

  • Aaron

    Where to begin? First, the tuition is what it is and you either pay it or you move on. As it exceeds 8% it does have to receive approval from the HEC and while they likely will approve the increase, it is not automatic.

    I suggested one way to reduce the cost was to eliminate some of the elective requirements, stating that I see no reason that a major should be made up with as much as 60% non-course related material. I still believe that. While I understand that during college the goal is to educate the student in many facets, as is evidenced by AF AM classes at NC in a recent story, many of these courses are “cake” classes meant to keep students academically eligible so that they may remain in school. To a small extent, the HEC has undertaken that step as they recently standardized all 4 year degrees at 120 hours whereas many used to require 128. While that may not seem like much, the reduction in hours did result in many students completing their degree in one less semester.

    The concerning part for me is the increase in the cost of tuition over the last decade. A 77% increase is a tremendous increase, much higher than the cost of inflation which would place WVU’s 2003/04 tuition of $3938 would be $5,074 today. More troubling is that the Board of Governors can now increase tuition 5% every year without HEC approval so the increases can be potentially endless. One fix in stabilizing a student’s cost would be to “firm” their tuition upon their enrollment at WVU just as their catalog is with that tuition remaining the same so long as they graduate within the graduation rate timeline.

    Hoppy suggest the Community College route for some students to which I have to responses. First, while many of the state’s community colleges have 2+2 agreements with WVU, there is no community college in Morgantown. The closest is Pierpont which used to be affiliated with Fairmont State. If WVU wants more students to take the community college route, they should lobby for, establish and support a community college in Morgantown. Given that they would lose tuition dollars though, I doubt we will see that happen. Second, West Virginia’s community colleges are failing miserably. Bridgemont CTC has the highest graduation rate at 16.5% and the average is only 10.3%. I’m sure it will surprise few that WV ranks 48th in CTC graduation rates but ranks above the national average in spending per completion at $43,622 per student. Much of the problem with graduation rates is that many CTC’s only offer courses once a year instead of once a semester so if you get out of line, it can easily take longer than 3 years to get an Associate Degree adding thousands to your cost.

    That’s just one area where our education is broken. Another is in our secondary education, which sends students to college unprepared as the high rate of remedial courses by WV high school graduates prove. 70% of WV high school graduates require a remedial math course, 45% require a remedial English course and 12% require a remedial course for time management. Overall, 2 of 3 WV high school graduates are required to take a remedial course. Few of these students graduate and even fewer graduate on time adding to the tremendous bubble that student loans are becoming, all of which have an effect on the colleges and universities students attend.

  • DWM

    The last thing a student should do is finance their college education with loans. Save money to start and then work yourself through college by working and taking less than a full class load. Better to graduate in six or seven years than to graduate in four with $30,000 of debt.

    I think we need to rethink the college model completely. It is a critical step in one's development, but the brick and mortar model that are parents and grandparents experienced needs blown up along with the exorbitant cost. Imagine a college professor teaching 1000 students over the internet from his study at home and all the students taking the class from their bedroom and renting the book online.

    The current model is too expensive and makes no sense with today's technology.

    • Student

      I completely agree that the current college model needs a big change. However, it is impossible to "save" and "work" through college and come out loan free unless you go to a technical school or similar. I saved money for college on my own beginning my freshman year of high school when I was old enough to begin working. I continue to work full time now, as well as take 18 hours(or more) per semester. I got 50% scholarship to my university. At my school, if you take under full time, you pay out of pocket per class. And believe me when I tell you it is EXPENSIVE. You need the loans because otherwise you couldn't do it. If you take "six or seven years" to finish, you PAY for that time. It is much more cost effective to take as many as possible per semester because the cost is the same for full time whether that is 12 hours or 21 hours. I get paid more than the average student my age because I have worked my butt off to get here, but I don't know many jobs that pay enough to cover the cost of a college education without loans.

    • Aaron

      Many schools will allow you to take classes online but you receive no credit unless you pay their tuition.

      I took an online class at WVU last year and the instructor used Yale Online lectures to teach the course. I've also used MIT open online courses and Khan Academy.

      I agree, we need to blow the current model up.

  • WV Guru

    If WV didn't have WVU, how would the upcoming generation be able to get a job in another State? Attending is a pre-immigration ritual.

    • JMB

      Funny and true.

  • Patchy

    Sorry to see West Virginians being bled to death by their 'public servants' but it will be interesting (read: exciting) when tuition for out-of-state students exceeds their in-state tuition in their home states.

    Morgantown will empty out like a hurricane evacuation zone. The police blotter will shrink considerably but we'll just have to get along somehow without the, er, cultural input from New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

    • scott

      AMEN. My daughter is a sophmore at WVU now and I was surprised to find out that many of her out of state friends came here because it was cheaper! WOW.

      I guess it's not as bad as Maryland where you can get in state tuition for being an illegal alien living in the state.

      • Randy

        My plan for my kids if they want to attend an out of state college is this. Pick a state that gives in state tuition to the I word. ILLEGALS. There , I said it. Then leave the good old USA and renounce their citizenship. Next go to Mexico and head north. Sneak over the fence (and for the thousand or so miles where there is no fence, just mime the act). And now-as if by magic-tens of thousands will be saved on them getting their college degree. Another alternative is to get chummy with Joe Manchin and get a WVU degree without spending money on books, travel costs, graduation gowns and such. But seeing as I never even met the guy, we'll stick with plan A.

  • Topcat

    Boy, this story must have came directly from the castle in Florida! Go after WVU every chance you can, do these people not realize the only reason Morgantown still exists is because of WVU? WVU no longer a bargain but by the last paragraph is it a good investment?

  • El Supremo

    How about these numbers for comparison. In September, 1961 I entered WVU as a freshman. All freshmen were required to live in the dorm, where my roommate and I had two rooms and shared a bath with six other residents. We received 20-meals a week (Sunday night the cafeteria staff had the night off). We also had maid service twice a week.

    After registering for classes and paying a chemical lab fee, my total bill for the semester was $444--my receipt was a computer punch card. Books amounted to approximately fifty dollars for the first semester.

    • Aaron

      Your 444 tuition equates to $3,520 today. I guess the question is, for twice the money, has the education improved?

      • The bookman

        Or, as Hoppy quips, is it just not a bargain as it once was, with its tuition more accurately priced to reflect its value?

        • Aaron

          That's what I keep telling my youngest, who didn't realize the value of the Promise in high school when all he wanted to do was play baseball. He didn't get serious about school until his senior year and then he decided he wanted to be a Mountaineer. 3 years later, he's a Dean's List Student looking to complete his Degree in 4.5 years and then begin his Masters Education.

          His options for repaying his student loans include National Guard service and government employment. After two years, when he realized what a 6 year cost would equate to, he got a little worried but I assured him that over his lifetime, that degree would more than pay for itself. I hope I'm right.

  • Bill Hill

    WVU has never been a real bargain. Unlike many schools its school ranking is not equal to its cost. Never has been. Speaking personally, if it was going to cost me what it will now cost a WV student to attend, look at either a community college for at least part of my education or if I felt I had the grades and scores I would look at private colleges. The best thing that could happen at WVU, at least in my opinion, is it get back to the job of education and get out of the housing, seeking government grants, and sports aspect.

  • Wowbagger


    WVU still gets quite a lot of state support, for example all of it's purchases are tax exempt and they are adding many new buildings backed by municipal bonds with extremely low interest backed by West Virginia's ratings. Most recently they have been rearranging Morgantown streets without consulting the city council, buying a lot of property in town (taking it off the tax roles), and preparing to flood the student housing market with luxury appartments, not dormatories funded by state backed bonds. WVUs growth has driven property prices to high end urban California levels. This is good if you already own property and can afford the taxes, but forces many to live outside if the housing bubble and commute long distances to work. Retiring faculty now cash in and leave eastern Monongalia county for more affordable locations. Much of this development is funded directly by tuition and fees.

    To those who think this is a good thing, you should talk to in state students who are working two or more jobs trying to avoid a huge debt at graduation as WVU relentlessly cranks up the tuition and fees.

    • The bookman

      If you can't get a B average and score a 22 on the ACT, should college be your only consideration after high school?

      • Wowbagger

        Even if you have a B average or better and a good ACT score a high school graduate might be a lot better off becoming an electrician or a plumber.

        I have known tradesmen in both areas along with many others who obtained bachelors degrees first and then found they could make more money as tradesmen, in some cases allowing them to pay off their wasted student loans faster.

  • Hillbilly

    Ask any of the many Jersey students... WVU is still thousands less than Rutgers, even paying out of state rates. And the Promise Scholarship only pays the tuition, not room and board, or books...

    • AJ

      Promise scholarship only pay a portion of that now. (5k/year) so those that go to WVU will still have to foot the ever expensive bill. Out-of-state finally out enroll in-state students (See Morgantown in the summertime where it's partially a ghost town not that I'm complaining about that). WVU see dollar signs in the eyes of out-of-state students and their rich parents. State support is BELOW 20 PERCENT. It use to be a lot higher. The outrageous 8 percent increase for in-state students only confirms all that. This is not an anti-WVU driven agenda on this one (although theirs many more elsewhere on this site). WVU is pricing the common folk out of a potential quality education.

  • Jim N Charleston


    Still Hating on the U cause of the IMG deal I see. Get over it dude. You sound like a jilted lover. Just Move on.

    WVU is the best investment there is for the people of WV. 7 Gs a year for tuition is dirt cheap compared to the income potential for the rest of your life vs working for Wally World type wages. If you really can't see that your game has slipped as much as ole JR's has.

    All I got
    I'm Jim N Myrtle Beach

    • The bookman

      But I think 7 G's x 4 is an exorbitant sum to gain employment at Wally World or Mickey D's. Too many end up back in Dad's basement flipping burgers or trying to find a bar code to scan. The job market dictates available opportunities for graduates, not the number of graduates entering the market. Too many choose college, and either drop out or receive degrees that don't provide a useful skill set. If the cost of tuition will make some second guess the value of going to college for that English Literature Degree, then that's a good thing.

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, though WVU's tuition rates may not be the 'bargain' they used to be, they're still a whole lot cheaper than the comparable rates at this state's private colleges and universities. Overall, it is still less expensive to attend a state college/university than it is to go to a private one.

  • The bookman

    That is quite a leap from my first semester bill of $660! Given the state offers the Promise Scholarship, I'm not sure we can say we are impeding well prepared kids from going to WVU. The academic requirements don't eliminate any student who has diligently prepared to attend higher education. A 3.0 GPA and ACT composite of 22/SAT 1020 is easily achieved for kids leaving for college who have a reasonable chance for success. Sure, there are always exceptions both above that bar who fail, and below who succeed, but I believe it is in our best interest to find alternative learning opportunities for kids graduating high school than just going to college. Cost may help with that process, so I don't see the level of tuition as a bad thing.

    • Silas Lynch

      Following the Great Depression then World War II our greatest and brightest-- many of whom were denied even completing high school-- went to work in or factories assembling cars and producing chemicals and house hold appliances while others became machinist and some worked at other trade skills. That generation is what made our economy the juggernaut that we still benefit from today.
      Today, our greatest and brightest become lawyers with a scant few becoming doctors or engineers. The rest just scrape through college and become low level-middle management in retail and the service industry.

      I often hear Hoppy opine the benefits of WVU being so accessible for the many with its low admission standards-- the reasons for that are many and for a different a discussion-- but for now we need to discuss the academic standards being too low for higher education across the country.

      Our Universities seem to have become student mills, with a primary function for profit and secondary of education.

      • Matt

        It's not the job market that dictates how successful a college graduate will be. It's the kind of attitude and application that said student puts forth during college. In today's economy it's not enough to go four years, have internships, and work part-time jobs. They have to learn to see the big picture and set themselves apart from the pack of college grads.

        In other words, BE DIFFERENT. Having a college degree doesn't mean anything if you don't pull yourself up by your bootstraps and use the teaching you have paid for to secure a job for yourself. I think this might be a good steam release subject. Whether it's by starting your own company or getting hired by a company to do what you love to do (hopefully what you studied while in college) then you have all the options in the world. Will you make mistakes? YES. Always remember that the American dream is alive and well, but there are more sharks in the water (corrupt ___________) I left a blank because you can name just about any position of power and it is probably inhabited by a corrupt individual somewhere in the chain of command.

        Good Day

      • scott

        Let's also not forget about the lower standards that minorities and athletes benefit from when applying. Just make it equal across the board.