CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Higher Education Policy Commission approved tuition increases for several West Virginia colleges and universities on Tuesday -- bringing the average yearly cost for in-state students to $6,067.
Secretary of Education and the Arts Kay Goodwin and state Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares, members of the HEPC, voted against the tuition hikes, citing concerns about debt for students and institutions.
"I'm not so worried about [universities] as I am about their students and their families and their loans. But in the very near future, we're going to see those institutions failing because of their student loan default rates," Goodwin said. "I think we only add to the problem when we increase tuition rates."
Phares said not enough of the state's students, especially those who come from low-income families, are graduating because they are overwhelmed by the costs of college.
"I'm concerned that students entering college have difficulty matriculating through the college system and ultimately have a huge debt," he said. "The percent of completers are mismatched with the needs of the workforce. Not enough are graduating with the skills and knowledge they need."
State code requires the HEPC to approve any in-state tuition and fee increases in excess of 5 percent. Those institutions that requested a tuition increase of at least 5 percent include West Virginia University, West Virginia State University, Concord University, Bluefield State College, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College and West Liberty University.
The average increase for in-state tuition next year is $380.
Tuition at WVU for the 2013-14 school year will be $6,456 for in-state undergraduates, an increase of more than $360 from last year. WVSU's tuition and fees will increase by nearly $500, bringing the annual tuition for residents to $5,932. Fairmont State is increasing tuition by about $500, as well, while Glenville State is increasing by $524.
Marshall University will increase its tuition and fees to about $6,200 -- an increase of 4.8 percent.
As in previous years, institutions were required to present their needs for tuition increases to the HEPC, aligning their tuition hikes with funding for their strategic goals.