- Report: WV schools' tuition more than doubles over 15 years Monday, March 27, 2017, 04:01
By Jake Jarvis
The average tuition at West Virginia’s public colleges and universities increased by about $4,200 a year, or roughly 147 percent, in the past 15 years, a new report finds.
As lawmakers debate how much higher education should be cut in next year’s budget, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy unveiled a new report today that found the increase of tuition outpaced the rate of inflation. Those increases eroded how much of a student’s tuition financial aid programs are able to cover.
“I think this is important to be aware of in a state like West Virginia, which has the lowest level of college-educated adults in its workforce, higher education is one of the areas we should be investing in, not cutting,” said Sean O’Leary, a senior policy analyst at the left-learning center. “The proposals that have come out of the Legislature this year all have further cuts to higher education.”
In his first State of the State address, Gov. Jim Justice proposed cutting state funding to West Virginia University and Marshall University by 4.4 percent each, which would be roughly $5.9 million and $2.8 million respectively.
The House Finance Committee on Saturday got a glimpse of what could be the House’s budget for next year. It kept the cuts Justice proposed, while also cutting $1.28 million from community and technical colleges and about $5 million more from other four-year colleges.
“The colleges can use tuition increase to make up for those cuts, and that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing,” O’Leary said. “I think we’re starting to get to the point now where tuition increases have really made colleges a lot less affordable than it use to be.”
O’Leary will be at Marshall and WVU this week to discuss his report. He will be at Marshall at 6 p.m. tonight in the Drinko Library, and he will be at WVU at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Mountainlair.
His report, which pulled data from the Higher Education Policy Commission, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education, does not take into consideration fees or the cost of room and board.
Had the cost of tuition kept pace with the rate of inflation, O’Leary said tuition would have increased only 33 percent from 2002 to 2016. The highest rate of increase in that time period was at Glenville State College, where tuition went from $2,700 to $7,344, a 172 percent increase, according to the report. The lowest increase was at the West Virginia Institute of Technology, where tuition went from $3,066 to $6,648, a 117 percent increase.
A similar report last year from the Southern Regional Education Board found, although college is cheaper in West Virginia than in many other states, it costs families a greater percentage of their yearly income to send children to school than in other states.
O’Leary said a $100 increase in tuition and fees can lead to a decline in enrollment of about 0.25 percent.
“So then you’re losing enrollment, and that hurts,” O’Leary said. “You’re getting less tuition money, you’re getting less state support and you’re just really hurting yourself in the long term.”
Reach Jake Jarvis at 304-348-7939,