WV Press InSight Videos

WVU Student Report: Education reform, state budget cuts will affect WVU

Editor’s Note:  The Mountaineer News Service is produced by journalism students at West Virginia University.  Students from the P.I. Reed School of Journalism report, write and produce multi-platform news and feature packages about newsworthy subjects in West Virginia. 

By Amit Batra, Will Hirsch and Taylor Eaton

Mountaineer News Service

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Last month, President Barack Obama announced a set of proposals aimed at making colleges more affordable and accountable to students by rating these institutions and linking federal financial aid with a college scorecard that takes into account the cost of tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the number of low-income students who attend.

According to the fact sheet about the new plan on Whitehouse.gov, the College Scorecard should be updated by 2015, as the Department of Education develops and implements a new rating system. By 2018, students attending colleges and universities that score well would see more financial aid.

As tuition rises, there is a higher load on families for the money to come out of pocket. According to the Project on Student Debt, state financing is declining and the average borrower now graduates with more than $26,000 in debt.

West Virginia University, located in Morgantown, West Virginia, was recently ranked No. 6 on Policy Mic’s list of “12 Top Colleges Where Students Can Get the Most Bang for Their Buck.” WVU was compared to other schools in terms of cost, graduation rate and debt at the time of graduation. For the 2013-2014 Academic Year, West Virginia residents pay $3,228 a semester and non-residents pay $9,816 a semester in tuition. The universities current graduation rate is 57 percent, which is considered high. (Information was found on the Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance’s website.) Photo by Taylor Eaton.

West Virginia University, located in Morgantown, West Virginia, was recently ranked No. 6 on Policy Mic’s list of “12 Top Colleges Where Students Can Get the Most Bang for Their Buck.” WVU was compared to other schools in terms of cost, graduation rate and debt at the time of graduation. For the 2013-2014 Academic Year, West Virginia residents pay $3,228 a semester and non-residents pay $9,816 a semester in tuition. The university’s current graduation rate is 57 percent, which is considered medium/high on the college scorecard. (Information was found on the WVU Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance’s website.) Photo by Taylor Eaton.

 The low cost of tuition is one of West Virginia University’s most attractive features. Many students choose WVU because of its affordable in-state and out-of-state tuition. Out-of-state students often choose to become part of the Mountaineer family because it is less expensive than going to an in-state school.

“I actually got accepted to in-state University of Miami, but that’s private and out of budget and scholarships didn’t cover that,” said senior pre-med student Sahil Parag. “It was about $45,000. That’s without room and board. (West Virginia) was cheaper than an in-state school in Miami. That’s a great deal.”

Obama’s plan also calls for states to fund education based on performance. One way that West Virginia is already doing this is through the  PROMISE Scholarship.

For in-state students, who are on the PROMISE Scholarship and attend a college or university in West Virginia, a majority of their tuition is covered by this scholarship. To be eligible, students must meet all the qualifications. Requirements include a 22 composite score on the ACT with 20 being in Mathematics, English, Science and Reading or a 1020-combined score on the SAT with a 480 in Mathematics and 490 in Critical Reading. A 3.0 GPA is also required for the scholarship. Students currently enrolled in a West Virginia college or university must renew the scholarship each year. For students to qualify to renew this scholarship, they must be enrolled as full-time students, maintain a 2.75 grade point average on a 4.0 scale the first year and a 3.0 cumulative grade point average in subsequent years, and complete and earn a minimum of 30 credit hours each 12-month period.

“Having the PROMISE Scholarship at WVU – it covers three-fourths of my tuition,” said sophomore journalism student Sara Wells. “Tuition has obviously gone up in the past couple of years. If I didn’t have the PROMISE Scholarship, I would be so far in debt, and I might not be able to go to WVU. I would ask my parents for help, but it’s nice to know I can do things on my own and support myself through college thanks to the PROMISE Scholarship.”

“I think it’s (PROMISE Scholarship) crucial to any West Virginia in-state student. If you can get that, take advantage of it unless you’re very well off financially,” Wells said.

Kate Padula, Assistant Director of Recruitment at the Office of Admissions at WVU, believes the University has made strides in keeping tuition affordable and accommodating its students.

“Keeping tuition affordable, especially for our West Virginia residents, is top priority,” Padula said. “We operate like any other business where we have a budget, and we have to allocate resources wisely. We operate as a land grant University. We leverage our financial aid packages and scholarships really well.”  Still, she is anxious to see how education reform might benefit the school.

 

mountaineer-300x199

As of the Fall 2012 semester, 29,707 students were enrolled at WVU. According to the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, state appropriations for higher education have dropped 10 percent from 2002 to 2011. And while state support falls, tuition costs continue to rise. The average in-state tuition for a West Virginia public institution rose from $3,522 in 2002 to $5,147 in 2011. Photo by Taylor Eaton.

A big part of the new reform is based on rewarding schools who keep tuition low. That could be a challenge for West Virginia’s colleges and universities in the face of the 7.5 percent budget cut for higher education announced in February.

According to the WV Center on Budget & Policy, nearly half of the $75 million in state budget cuts is coming from higher education. Many of the state’s universities and colleges will see cuts exceeding 7.5 percent, including a $10.4 million cut from West Virginia University’s appropriation, and a $4.9 million cut from Marshall University’s appropriation. Support for higher education has been declining with each passing year. College enrollment in West Virginia continues to increase, causing there to be less support. According to the WV Center on Budget & Policy, if this trend continues, West Virginia colleges and universities will become less and less affordable. But West Virginia is not the only state facing the issue of higher education budget cuts. Every state except North Dakota and Wyoming is spending less on higher education. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states are spending $2,353 or 28 percent less per student on higher education, nationwide, in the current 2013 fiscal year than they did in 2008, when the recession hit.

Dan Durbin, Senior Associate Vice President for Finance and Treasurer for the West Virginia University Research Corporation, said when the state reduced the  higher education budget, the higher education policy commission did not also reduce student aid, so the actual cost of the cut is closer to 8.9 percent for institutions like WVU.

“The actual impact on WVU comes in at $13.3 million less from the state,” he said. “We are looking across the University for ways to deal with the cut, focusing as much as possible on reducing administrative costs, so we can preserve academic budgets to the maximum extent possible. While we have asked every unit to review their activities and look for places to trim, each Vice President may have a different plan depending on their specific activity.”

“Those plans could include things ranging from travel reductions, for example, to holding positions open for a period of time, or even not filling a vacancy for the immediate future. It’s also important to note that the increase we implemented in tuition is in line with our 2020 Strategic Plan that was adopted a couple of years ago and did not increase as a result of this state budget reduction. We believe we will be able to deal with these cuts. However the prospect of continuing and perhaps even increasing cuts in state funds will be more difficult to handle,” Durbin said.

Recently, WVU has been recognized for its attention to some of the key factors in Obama’s plan. In August it was ranked No. 6 on  Policy Mic’s “Top 12 Colleges Where Students Get the Best Bang for Their Buck.” The rankings, an apparent response to Obama’s new plan, were based on tuition, graduation rate and debt at the time of graduation.

According to Forbes Magazine, 88 percent of WVU students receive financial aid. In October of 2012, Forbes recognized WVU as one of the nation’s “Best Buy Colleges” of that school year. Among land-grant universities on the list, WVU was ranked No. 6. That ranking was ahead of schools in the area such as James Madison University, University of Virginia, University of Maryland, William & Mary, Virginia Tech, George Mason, Ohio State University and Old Dominion University. WVU ranked the highest of the Big 12 Conference schools.

Below is an interactive map where you can hear four students talk about the factors that brought them to West Virginia University.

Below is an interactive map where you can hear four students talk about the factors that brought them to West Virginia University.

View WVU Student Population  in a larger map.

 

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter