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Budget cuts may mean tuition hikes for W.Va. colleges

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State colleges and universities may be looking at tuition increases to make up a proposed 7.5 percent cut in their 2013-14 budgets, Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul Hill told legislators Tuesday.

In August, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin asked higher-education institutions, along with many other state agencies and divisions, to incorporate the 7.5 percent cut into their budget requests -- anticipating flat revenue collections and soaring costs for Medicaid, the state-managed health-care program.

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Hill told members of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability that if the 7.5 percent reduction in state funding is imposed, and were entirely made up through tuition increases, it would amount to an average in-state increase of 4.8 percent, or about $261 per student.

Those percentages would vary, based on the size and scope of the various institutions, ranging from 3.1 percent at West Virginia University to 9.1 percent at WVU Institute of Technology.

On a dollar basis, the annual tuition hikes would range from $141 at Shepherd University to $506 at WVU Tech, he said.

Hill said administrations are looking at alternatives to tuition increases. "We are continuing discussions with institutions on individual strategies," he said.

He said tuition for out-of-state students could increase by an average of $624 -- which he doubts would hurt out-of-state enrollment at state colleges.

"We are one of the most competitive SREB states in terms of tuition rates," Hill said, referring to the Southern Regional Education Board, which encompasses 16 Southeastern states.

State Community and Technical Colleges Chancellor Jim Skidmore said tuition at two-year institutions would need to increase by an average of $275, with increases varying by size of institution.

"The smaller enrollment institutions are going to have a higher tuition rate to make up for the reduction," he said.

The increases would range from $185 at Blue Ridge CTC to $498 at Bridgemont.

Skidmore said community college administrators are hoping the actual 2013-14 budget will not impose the full 7.5 percent cut in state appropriations, and have adopted a resolution pledging not to raise tuition in the coming year if the state budget ultimately imposes smaller cuts on higher education.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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