CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At least one member of the West Virginia Senate is interested in the possibility of privatizing certain colleges in West Virginia.

Senator Craig Blair (R – Berkeley, 15) said it should be considered as a real possibility to help get the budget in order–if the schools are interested–in both the short-term and long-term.

“It is just looking at the fact that how we can get them out of the budget and set them free from the bureaucratic red tape that everybody–whether you are in business or you are not–has to deal with with this state government,” Senator Blair said on Wednesday’s edition of the MetroNews-affiliated “The Mike Queen Show” on the AJR News Network.

There are 22 public colleges and universities in West Virginia that offer an Associate’s Degree or higher. Blair suggested one possibility for privatization would be the West Virginia Osteopathic School of Medicine in Lewisburg.

“We’d have to work together,” he said. “First of all, we’re floating this idea out right now. The Osteopathic School, the leadership, and the Board of Directors and all of that would actually have to say, ‘Hey, we’d like to explore this idea as well.'”

Blair said he had not been in contact with anyone from any school yet. A representative from the West Virginia Osteopathic School of Medicine echoed that in a short comment to AJR/MetroNews.

“We have been made aware of comments that have been made on the radio and have heard rumors of potential privatization of different organizations or agencies, but we have not been contacted by anyone in the Legislature regarding this,” Marilea Butcher, Associate VP of Administrative Affairs at the WV School of Osteopathic Medicine, said in a short phone interview. “We have no idea what all it would entail.”

Blair added that it wouldn’t be difficult to begin phasing schools out of the state budget–even suggesting that interested schools could be phased out before Fiscal Year 2018. He did mention that there would need to be some leeway for students at any school that switched from public to private regarding tuition.

“Students that are going there at this point in time are paying a certain tuition, and they are expecting that for ‘x’ period of time,” he said. “It’s not something you can just write a bill for and walk away. It takes a little bit of time to do it.”

A 2012 study by Illinois State University showed that state appropriates for public universities has been on a steep decline

That study concluded that 2011-12 was the largest decline of state aid to higher education in 50 years.

There is also some evidence that suggests losses in state aid lead to higher tuition costs.

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