An editorial from the Parkerburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Budget woes are affecting West Virginia’s institutions of higher learning, perhaps more than many residents realized. In fact, one analysis, by the Higher Education Policy Commission showed the state’s four-year colleges are financially very weak.
For example, the commission recommends schools have at least six months worth of cash on hand to be considered healthy, and a minimum of two months worth, just to have a small cushion in place. Many schools in the Mountain State have less than two months of cash on which to fall back.
Glenville State College is in the shakiest position, with only 13 days of cash in reserve, according to the commission.
Meanwhile, of course, the community and technical colleges that serve so many students in our state are also struggling. West Virginia University at Parkersburg was just asked to come up with another plan, after the state Council for Community and Technical Colleges rejected its request to increase tuition 9 to 15 percent. School officials say they will go back to the drawing board and request a 5 percent increase, but that may not be enough to cover even basic maintenance needs.
As the well is running dry – state funding is shrinking all the time; and federal funding is harder and harder to come by – the institutions that may bear responsibility for training the generation that revitalizes West Virginia must find another way.
Those of us living outside academia know that means cutting costs, perhaps deeply. However, schools must not follow the example of West Virginia’s Division of Forestry, where 37 people who do the real, necessary work of the agency were laid off, while management and bureacratic ranks remained as swollen as ever.
From the community and technical colleges all the way to our state’s flagship institution of higher learning, administrators will have to take a hard look at excess that must be trimmed – and they will have to start by acknowledging just how much excess they are carrying around. The rest of West Virginia has to face reality. It is time for academia to do so, too.