More than 40 percent of West Virginia students qualify for the Pell Grant -- meaning they're from low-income families. It's estimated that it takes about 30 percent of the average West Virginia family income to pay a student's tuition.
While the state has one of the lowest college graduation rates in the country, it's ranked fifth in the nation for grant aid per fulltime student because of investments in Promise and the state's Higher Education Grant Program.
At the same time, the state continues to provide less and less support for college budgets, shifting more of the responsibility on students to pay their way.
Ten years ago, the state provided about 60 cents on the dollar for tuition revenues. Now, the state gives 34 cents on the dollar. The country's average is about 50 cents on the dollar.
"We're supported less than most states. Students are carrying more of the weight now for their education than the state is providing. You can see why those tuition numbers have had to creep up," Hill said. "Budgets have grown in terms of dollar amounts, but state appropriation has not. Meanwhile, we're serving more students and dollars are spreading thin. That's why college is becoming more expensive for students."
While the commission waits to see if their request for exemption will be passed, a team has been assembled to plan for possible budget cuts.
"This is a point we'll make to the Legislature when we go up for our budget hearing to let them know it's important that the state continues to invest in higher education. More students can afford to go to school by having state tax dollars support the institutions," he said. "We don't know if it's going to happen, but we're figuring out what the possible scenarios are. We're trying to make the numbers work with the potential impact of a proposed cut."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.