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Nearly all of W.Va. colleges, universities raising tuition

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Tuition increases are slated for the next academic year across nearly all of West Virginia's colleges and universities.

That's true in the state's four-year colleges -- where the Higher Education Policy Commission approved tuition increases of more than 5 percent at five schools late last month -- as well as at community and technical colleges.

The state Legislative Oversight Committee on Education Accountability got the rundown on those increases at a Monday meeting during the Legislature's interim session this week.

State colleges and universities are coping with a nearly 9 percent cut in funding from the state for the next fiscal year; funding for community and technical colleges has been reduced by 7.5 percent.

That's left many institutions scrambling to reassess their finances and, in some cases, larger than average increases in tuition rates for the coming academic year.

The largest increase is at West Virginia State University, which is raising tuition by 9 percent, or $490. The lowest increases at four-year colleges are at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology, which is raising tuition 4.5 percent, or $250.

Paul Hill, chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission, stressed that the institutions have worked to decrease operating costs to avoid exorbitant increases. Overall, operating costs only increased by an average of 2.2 percent at West Virginia's colleges and universities -- three schools were able to cut costs by more than 4.5 percent.

"So the message has been delivered," Hill said. "Institutions have been focusing not only on these increasing revenues but also on how to cut costs."

Among West Virginia's community and technical colleges, the average tuition increase was around 8.1 percent -- the highest was 15 percent and the lowest was 0, at Bluefield State College, which elected to leave tuition at its current level.

That amounts to an average increase of $234 across the entire community and technical college system.

Three institutions were able to account for the reduction in state appropriations through tuition increases, said James Skidmore, chancellor of the West Virginia Community and Technical College Council. The others will continue to evaluate their financial status.

Delegate Brady Paxton questioned the impact these tuition increases could have on financial aid, particularly student loans.

"Are we pricing students out of going to college?" he asked Skidmore.

 Skidmore answered that there is, in fact, a "problem in community colleges."

"But we're addressing it," he said. "We understand that there is a problem and we understand that students need loans to go to college, but we also understand that we need to keep down our loan default rates ... and we're working on that."

Skidmore said officials would, in coming months and years, examine data for a correlation between tuition increases and student loan rates and default rates.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.

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