MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia University Board of Governors voted Thursday to increase tuition by five percent in light of the most recent round of state budget cuts.

WVU President Gordon Gee said he doesn’t justify the increase but it had to be done.

“We just simply have to make certain that we continue to educate our students at the highest level. What we do here is we match it with an increase in financial aid,” Gee said during an interview on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The legislature passed a new state budget, which goes into effect Saturday, that cuts a total of $16 million from higher education. WVU takes the biggest reduction at about $7.4 million in reduced state spending from the prior year. WVU goes from $110 million in state funding this past year to about $103 million for the coming year.

The five percent increase approved Thursday increases tuition for in-state students by $384 a year. The new total is now at $8,376 a year. Tuition for out-of-state students will jump approximately $1,100 for the year bringing the total to $23,616.

Despite the increase, WVU remains cheaper than most, Gee said.

“Five percent certainly puts us in a position to be able to remain competitive and we’re competitive with institutions around the country. We are the lowest tuition in the Big 12,” Gee said.

Gee fought the budget battle at the legislature and rejects comments made by lawmakers concerning tax increases.

“You have raised taxes on every parent and every student who comes to our university because we have to raise tuition. This is a tax on parents and students and we just have to understand that,” Gee said.

WVU brings in about $1 billion a year in total revenue. So compared to overall revenue, the state funding cut amounts to a little less than a percent, but Gee maintained again Thursday the cut is still significant. He said WVU would continue to work to reduce administrative costs.

“I cannot go to the legislature and say, ‘Hey, give us more money,’ unless we ourselves are as effective and as cost conscious as we can be,” Gee said.

WVU’s Board of Governors also increased a number of fees along with the cost of student housing and meal plans.

Governor Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice issued a news release Thursday afternoon, expressing disappointment that universities such as WVU, Marshall and West Virginia State are in the position of raising tuition after the state budget for the coming fiscal year reduced funding to higher education.

“I’ve tried since February to impress upon the citizens of our state and the state Legislature that massive cuts to higher education institutions were just going to hurt our young people and their ability to get a degree,” Justice stated.

The governor added, “This didn’t have to take place. You can’t cut to the bone and not feel it. I truly feel bad for the thousands of students at many of our state schools of higher learning that are going to have pay substantially more now for their education. It’s nothing more than a tax on our young people. Unfortunately, I’m sure it will also prevent some from even going to college.”

The governor alluded to a plan he had favored during the legislative session. That proposal would have raised and expanded the sales tax, reduced the personal income tax and established a tiered severance tax system.

The proposal passed the Senate but had bipartisan criticism in the House, where delegates were concerned the personal income tax reductions would be outweighed by the other tax increases for lower- and middle wage earners. They also worried about holes in future budgets.

“I had a plan to make sure this wouldn’t happen but the Legislature dissed me,” Justice stated Thursday. “The hurting has started and it is going to get worse as we move into a new fiscal year.”

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