MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Students who will graduate from West Virginia University in Spring 2019 will be paying nearly 26 percent more in tuition than when they began their college careers in 2015.

WVU’s Board of Governors approved the latest tuition hike — 5.73 percent for in-state undergraduate students — during a special meeting Friday.

The rising cost of a WVU education began with a near 10 percent increase in the 2015-2016 academic year, as institutions faced a 1.4% reduction in state support. While that trendĀ of increasing tuition continued, Paula Congelio, associate vice president and chief financial officer for WVU Health Sciences, said state support is starting to swing the other direction.

“This year we actually had a slight increase in our state appropriation, no longer a decline, but those increases are to support the legislative pay raises that the legislature announced and also an investment in our neuroscience program,” Congelio said.

Last year, students saw a 5 percent tuition increase after a 5 percent raise the year before, totaling just under 26 percent with this year’s hike.

Even with the increases, however, Congelio said WVU’s $8,900/year tuition rate is still a “bargain” compared to its peers in neighboring states.

“Our student debt for resident students in West Virginia is a little less than $22,000, and student debt on average nationally for undergraduate students is around $32,000,” she said. “We’re about 27 percent less than the national average student debt for undergraduate degrees.”

Additionally, Congelio said that 46 percent of WVU’s incoming freshman have non-loan aid that covers their tuition and fees. Scholarships through the institution will also increase at the same 5.73 percent to account for the tuition increase.

Planning for these increases began last fall when the board was creating the 2018-2019 budget, with much of the funding providing for faculty and staff raises, as well as stipend increases for graduate students, Congelio said.

“Faculty and staff are the main support, of course, to all our students, so as we look to improve the quality of the student experience, we know we need to invest in our faculty and staff,” she said.

Congelio said faculty pay raises have been lower and less frequent in recent years, some years without any pay increases at all, and graduate students have gone even longer without any funding changes.

“Their stipends have been at the same level for years, so we needed to increase that to recognize their great work and to also try to attract graduate students — the best — in the future,” she said.

With the budget and tuition now set for the 2018-2019 academic year, Congelio said the board will soon begin to examine finances for 2019-2020.

“We will actually start very soon, looking at that,” she said. “It’s a year-round process, it really is, but again, we’ll try to minimize that as much as possible and we’ll start looking soon.”

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