Holding Burden On Students Down

Part of the mission of West Virginia University, the state’s flagship institution of higher learning, is to provide top-quality – yet affordable – education opportunities for Mountain State residents.

Probably with that in mind, WVU’s Board of Governors did the right thing last week in reaction to declining state and federal funding support. They agreed to modest tuition increases – and a mandate for the university to reduce spending dramatically during the next two years. Salary increases for WVU faculty and staff were tabled.

Many institutions of higher learning elsewhere in the United States have a different philosophy, that the ivory tower must continue to grow, even if it means placing much of the burden on students already staggering under debt and sometimes forced to leave college because they simply can’t afford it,

To be sure, WVU students will pay more in the future. Undergraduate tuition for in-state students will be increased by $366 a year. Housing costs will go up by 4.5 percent.

But, again, those are not major increases in comparison to what is happening elsewhere. Even counting the increases, costs to attend WVU will be the second-lowest among its peer group of state universities.

Meanwhile, university officials are being instructed to reduce spending plans, some by as much as 10 percent. Clearly, the idea is for WVU, not its student body, to take most of the hit from lower state and federal support.

WVU always has been a bargain and will remain one, even with the increases. According to the university’s website, the cost of a four-year degree at WVU, based on the 2013-14 year, is $68,672 for West Virginians living in off-campus housing. That includes tuition, fees, books, food, lodging, transporation and personal expenses. At many other universities, that would cover just two or three years of attendance.

State colleges and universities in West Virginia have an excellent record of offering good value in higher education. WVU’s Board of Governors and other officials are to be commended for looking first at spending cuts and only then at making life tougher on students.