CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One of the loudest groans in state budget cuts in recent years came from the state’s higher education institutions.

Colleges and universities found themselves in a competitive environment and, when the funding dropped off from Charleston, most asked students or their parents to help make up the difference.

For the coming year, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin hasn’t called for any automatic across-the-board cuts. The question is whether the schools will hold that same policy when considering hikes to tuition and fee structures for the next academic year.

“I think my commissioners would all agree they would like to see all institutions take that into account and try to hold down tuition increases as much as possible,” said Dr. Paul Hill, chancellor of West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission. “That said, we’re already one of the lowest tuition states in the nation, so we’ve done a pretty good job with that.”

Hill said it’s encouraging to know the next budget can be built without starting in negative territory as they have in recent years. Budget cuts for higher ed, just in the past two years, have totaled more than ten percent.

“As we were told all along, there would need to be a cycle we would go through,” he said. “We were told there would be cuts and then we would move beyond that.”

Hill said he’s hopeful this year’s lack of any ordered cuts is the “beyond” promised. However, the Tomblin Administration may not have asked for cuts, but they have asked for schools to look at more efficient ways of delivering education. Hill said that’s always a work in progress.

“Whether we could outsource some services like food service or on-campus maintenance, can we save dollars there,” he said. “We’ve already looked at some of those programs from the institutions who are doing them.”

Hill said higher education in West Virginia needs to be a priority, particularly in a state where only 27 percent of the population has a college degree. Despite the recent increases in cost, he said a West Virginia college education is still a bargain when compared to other institutions across the nation.

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  • CaptainQ

    Fear not, Higher Ed!

    When the next legislative session convenes, there'll be more tax revenue coming!

    Return of the dreaded Food Tax, creation of new taxes, it'll come!

    Whether the Democrats or the GOP control of the next WV legislature, one thing's for certain: More/higher taxes are on the way!

  • pc

    This state has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, percentage of college grads in the nation. This greatly affects the state's great need to diversify its economy. If you check on the Higher Ed. Policy Commission website, you can finds that state public colleges and universities have granted around 11 to 12 thousand degrees a year over the last few years. By comparison, Kentucky, the neighboring state we are often compared to, granted over 60,000 degrees from its public colleges/universities in 2012. And our "leaders" in Charleston wanted to continually operate our higher education systems on ever declining budgets. Unbelievable!!

    • ViennaGuy

      Kentucky also has nearly 2 1/2 times the population of West Virginia, so I'm not sure that your comparison is entirely valid.

      • pc

        About 4 million people in KY, 1.8 mil. in WV. But 5 times the number of college grads. Comparison is valid.

  • Thecrow2123

    "The question is whether the schools will hold that same policy when considering hikes to tuition and fee structures for the next academic year."

    Um, no!

    My kid is in his 5th year in college, med school, and tuition, fees, ect. has went up every year. In fact, med school tuition alone is actually 4 times as much as pre-med was. That's something that puzzles me too. Why?

  • Aaron

    The internet and the interstate has made many schools and their classes obsolete. Until a thoughtful analysis like the one mtnman suggested can be completed, I would favor consolidation of duplicate services. I do think though that private options should be included in such an analysis.

  • Joe

    Trim the fat. Cut some of those athletic checks that get sent to MU every year. Why is Bluefield State even open? This state has far too many mouths to feed and it should start by closing Glenville and Bluefield.

    • mntnman

      Well, BSC has a very important nursing program and a very well regarded engineering program, for starters. It also trains other health care professionals and teachers as well. All very much needed here in So WV. Concord only does teaching.

      While I agree we have too many schools, just picking some to close without looking at what they do and how it impacts education in the local environment is short sighted knee jerk behavior. Closing schools would require a detailed analysis of their programs and class sizes, where one would go to get the degree, etc before closing a single door. I'm all for doing something, but it needs to be thoughtful.

      • ViennaGuy

        I also agree that there are too many state-run schools, and I've long thought that the state should privatize some of them.