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WV Higher Ed Funding Down as Enrollment Rises

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Friday, March 22, 2013   

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Enrollment in West Virginia colleges and universities has grown rapidly, but the state has slashed higher-education funding.

Enrollment has risen by a quarter in the past decade, said Sean O'Leary, a public analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, but total funding has fallen by nearly 20 percent. As a result, he said, tuition and student debt loads are going up.

"Less and less state dollars being put towards higher education, and direct correlation with that is higher and higher tuition," he said. "While we're getting more and more people in, we're making it harder for them to afford college."

Lawmakers in the current legislative session have focused more on secondary education than funding for the state's colleges and universities.

The trend toward lower funding and higher tuition is nationwide, according to a new report from the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. It's happening as working families struggle, said report author Phil Oliff, who predicted that states may slow their own economic recoveries if they don't make higher education a higher priority.

"The bottom line," he said, "is that if states want to attract employers and develop a strong middle class, they will need a highly-educated workforce."

The national numbers show West Virginia's funding is down less than in most states. O'Leary said part of that is because the state's budget was not hit as badly during the recession. However, he added, "this year when we had our $75 million budget cut, almost half of that came from the higher education budget, from the money that we're sending to our colleges and universities."

The full report, "Recent Deep State Higher Education Cuts May Harm Students and the Economy for Years to Come," is online at cbpp.org.


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