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Bad Timing With Tuition Increase

Just because you have the ability to do something doesn’t mean that it’s always the right thing to do. That should have been in the minds of those in charge at West Virginia University as the school’s board of governors recently approved a 2% tuition increase as part of its $1.1 billion 2021-22 budget.

The 2% increase is meant to account for a 1.5% cut in state funding to WVU in fiscal year 2022. WVU also said the increase will help to account for a decrease in first-time freshmen enrollment, a 3% increase in housing revenue with occupancy rates remaining flat, increases in scholarship expenses for eligible students, a modest increase in revenue from grants and various contracts, and $5 million in estimated COVID-19 expenses.

“The last thing we want to do is raise tuition, but we need to invest in our university,” said Paula Congelio, vice president for finance and chief financial officer at WVU.

But the fact is that WVU has raised tuition every year but one over the last decade, as reporting from our Steven Allen Adams showed. Since the 2011-12 school year, in-state tuition has risen from $5,674 per year to $9,144 this coming school year — a 61% increase. The university’s overall budget has increased from $1.07 billion in 2018 to $1.1 billion in the coming year.

West Virginia University remains a value when it comes to higher education — that’s not in doubt. And we understand that costs are rising right now for everyone, in every sector. But this tuition increase comes at the wrong time, particularly when you consider the following took place over the past year that led to a less-than-ideal educational experience:

– most students had few in-person classes;

– faculty and staff were permitted to work from home;

– university facilities were closed or saw little to no use;

– WVU received $100 million in COVID-19 relief from the federal government;

– many students’ families struggled financially because of COVID-19.

As they did last year, university leaders should have held the line on tuition for another year. We would urge WVU leaders to consider that moving forward.

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