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Higher Education Should Be A Higher Priority

West Virginia is not alone when it comes to cutting funding to Higher Education. According to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, from 2008 – 2013, state spending on public colleges and universities dropped by an average of 28 percent or $2,353 per student. All but two states, North Dakota and Wyoming, have reduced state funding.

To counter the effect of these cutbacks, four-year public colleges have increased tuition an average of 27 percent or $1,850 per student (national average). Unfortunately even this increase has not been enough to make up for the decrease in funding and many institutions have also had to cut back on services such as libraries, instructional time and other programs.

West Virginia has cut higher education funding by 17.8 percent or $1,488 per student per year. In turn, its public colleges and universities have increased tuition by 21.4 percent or $1,037, an unfortunate trend in a state that already has a lack of trained workers. 

Last week we released our annual analysis of the governor’s proposed budget. The governor called for $75 million in cuts, half of which are to come from higher education.  Instead of increasing revenues, the governor is asking students and their families, along with the colleges and universities they attend, to absorb more and more costs. Shepherd University has already announced that it must raise tuition by 7 percent to help offset the reduction in state funding.

As stated in the Charleston Gazette today by Professor Christopher Swindell, shifting more of the cost of education onto students and families is nothing but a disguised tax increase.  He goes on to say that “budgets are moral documents. They reflect our collective priorities, or at least they should.”

If legislators buy into Governor Tomblin’s plan to cut higher education funding they are sending a clear message to students, families, and public colleges and universities that a well-trained workforce is just not a priority for us.

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