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WVU president pushing for calls to lawmakers to stop higher education cuts

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University President Gordon Gee is calling for pleas to the legislature to save higher education funding in the ongoing state budget process.

“We are on life support. This is a state that can go one of two ways. We need to stabilize that patient.  And, the Governor’s proposal will do that. And then we can start to grow.  But, if you try to continue to cut yourself into prosperity it just simply does not work,” Gee told Hoppy Kercheval on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline”.

Included in six short paragraphs released Tuesday to the media and sent to “Friends of West Virginia University”, Gee wrote, “I ask each of you to call and email Republican members of the West Virginia Senate. Urge them to either restore the budget for West Virginia University or start over.”

A Senate-proposed budget to address a $500 million deficit for fiscal year 2018 includes a 15 percent cut to state aid for higher education which is an estimated $50 million.

Gee has reiterated a message calling WVU the economic engine of the state. It was part of the rhetoric at Higher Education Day in Charleston, during his State of the University address and at WVU Day at the capitol.

“This is not about pressure. This is about information. I think budgets, in the end, are about policies.  We want to have people understand the policy impact of some of the decisions that will be made based upon the present budget document,” Gee said.

In three years WVU has been delivered $30 million in budget cuts, according to Gee.  He said the institution has also been making its own cuts.

“We are reallocating or taking another $45 million out of our budget.  I would never go to the legislature. I would never go to any of my friends unless I’ve given up the store.  The university has given up the store big time.”

In his letter to the “Friends of the University”, Gee ticked off areas he predicts would be impacted with further budget cuts.

“Let me be clear: Reductions of this magnitude will have a severe, negative impact to our institution. It will mean significant layoffs for our staff, increased tuition for our students, a fundamental change to WVU Extension Service and the reduction of academic programs.”

A budget proposal from Governor Jim Justice includes no higher education cuts.

Gee said the state’s resources “really need to be focused on keeping our young people here, getting an educational arena for them in which they can stay and continue to invest in the state.”

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, also a guest on MetroNews “Talkline”, said three to four percent of WVU’s state aid would be impacted under the Senate plan which the governor has threatened to veto it.

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