CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state Higher Education Policy Commission won't cut funding for its financial aid programs, including the Promise Scholarship, regardless of whether Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin exempts higher education from statewide budget cuts.
That means public universities and other commission programs could suffer more than originally anticipated, according to a statement from Chancellor Paul Hill.
"As a result of the financial aid exemption from the proposed budget reduction, the institutions and other programs administered by the state's higher education system and individual institutions will be subject to an increased proposed budget reduction in order for the overall proposed reduction in higher education's budget to equal 7.5 percent as requested by Governor Tomblin," Hill said in a statement emailed late Monday by a spokesperson.
In August, Tomblin's office asked state agencies to cut budgets for the 2014 fiscal year by 7.5 percent.
While some agencies or programs are exempt from the cut - the funding mechanism for K-12 education among them - the $456 million currently allocated by the state to higher education is not.
The request for slimmer budgets has solicited a variety of responses from Hill and the commission.
Shortly after Tomblin's office announced the proposed cuts, the commission voted to send a letter to the governor asking him to exempt higher education.
In subsequent meetings with legislative committees, Hill and James Skidmore, chancellor of the state Council for Community and Technical College Education, said the cuts could translate to higher tuition.
Hill also told legislators in October the cut "alone does not per se impact the Promise scholarship."
Although he was quoted in an Oct. 14 Sunday Gazette Mail story as saying the cuts could prevent qualified students from receiving the Promise, he later told the Daily Mail those comments were taken out of context. Instead, he meant the cuts could potentially affect funding for the program, a representative said at the time.