CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the West Virginia State University Board of Governors approved an 8 percent tuition and fee hike on Tuesday to help balance next year's budget, despite concerns that the escalating costs will hurt cash-strapped students.
"None of us wants to raise tuition, but administration has essentially cut over $2 million, or 10 percent of the budget, during this fiscal year," said Larry Rowe, chairman of the Board of Governors. "With those cuts and with the 8 percent tuition increase next year, we can practically assure that we have another balanced budget that won't cut essential services for students."
Under the proposed increase, West Virginia residents would pay $5,442 a year beginning next fall -- an increase of $404 a year. Out-of-state students would pay $12,720 a year, an increase of $942 from this year.
The Board of Governors approved the tuition and fee increase Tuesday by an 8-2 vote. The increase must be approved by the state Higher Education Policy Commission.
The tuition increase will net the school more than $1 million in revenue next fiscal year, said Melvin Jones, vice president for business and finance, and free up funds for improvements to the school library and athletics program.
The Board of Governors initially thought they would have to lay off as much as 15 percent of WVSU's work force to trim $2 million from the 2012-13 budget, but Jones said the school avoided layoffs through program reductions, a strict hiring freeze and staff attrition.
WVSU's new sticker price makes it the third-cheapest public university in the state, after Fairmont State University, which charges $5,326 a year for in-state students, and Bluefield State College at $5,153 a year, according to the HEPC.
The board has grappled for months to plug a multimillion-dollar budget hole spurred by plummeting student enrollment, a split with the school's community and technical college, and what the HEPC called a campuswide lack of "financial discipline."
The board slashed about $2 million from the university's budget this year, instituted a campuswide hiring freeze, and forced the finance department to approve any purchases greater than $1,000. Rowe said West Virginia State expects to round out the fiscal year, which ends June 30, with a budget surplus of about $570,000.
Still, Kristopher Casdorph, the student representative on the board, said State students were once again being slapped with increased tuition to pay for the past financial mistakes of administrators.