HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is one of only eight states to make cuts to its public higher education system for fiscal year 2014-15, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that was released this week.
The report was based on a study into public higher education funding in the wake of the 2008 recession. It showed that since that time, as states cut funding for higher education, more of the funding burden shifted to students. Tuition at public institutions has increased by 28 percent nationwide and 26.3 percent in West Virginia since the recession began.
In the span of a year, between 2013 and 2014, West Virginia spent $330 less per student, which was the second-highest decline in spending behind Wyoming, which cut $1,094 per student, according to the report.
The report also indicated the reasons for such cuts were because of decreasing tax revenues throughout the country during the recession and policy makers attempted to stimulate economic growth to compensate for the loss through tax cuts, costing additional revenue to support public programs.
In West Virginia, $425 million in revenue had to be compensated for during the 2014 legislative session through across-the-board cuts to state-funded initiatives and dipping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
If the state doesn’t come up with ways to generate more revenue in the coming years, more cuts, in the form of shutting down entire programs and schools, likely are on the horizon, said Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, and chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee.
“I think West Virginia already has been on a hard road and made all the cuts, to cut away any fat that was there,” Plymale said. “I think we’re at a point when, if there are additional cuts that are made from the state level, that institutions will be in trouble by means of closure, significant layoffs or furloughs, and that may, unfortunately, be the next step.”
The report did not come as a surprise to Marshall University President Steven Kopp,..