FACED with an expected $150 million increase in Medicaid spending in the next budget year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin wants to cut the budgets of certain state agencies by $85 million.
The Higher Education Policy Commission, which oversees public colleges and universities, would have to cut $34 million.
Chancellor Paul Hill responded with a plea that the state not only not preserve this year's $456 million appropriation from state taxpayers, but add $38 million.
In a letter to the governor, Hill warned that there could be significant tuition increases; that courses would be cut, possibly delaying graduation for some students; that institutions could lose key faculty and staff because salaries became non-competitive, which would clobber morale; and that larger classes taught by part-time faculty or graduate assistants could result.
The commission could be forced to consider seeking legislation that limited Promise Scholarships to students at public institutions, Hill wrote.
Cutting $34 million from the budgets of public colleges and universities in the state would be unpleasant.
But if it means eliminating weak-sister programs that serve few students, it could also present an opportunity to improve higher education. The necessity of continuing some institutions might have to be considered as well.
Funding weak institutions and bleeding funds from the strongest ones would not be good policy.
As for Promise scholarships, they are important, but they are only one of the needs the state faces.
State taxpayers simply are tapped out. They make tough spending decisions every day, and the sale of generic items at the grocery stores seems to be on the rise.
Ultimately, higher education can't fare much better than the people who support it. Finding savings is something all Americans have to do.