But now that's flipped. Next year only 21 percent of the budget will come from the state, while 37 percent will come from tuition.
Part of WVU's appeal has always been that it's a good deal, and that remains true because across the country significant tuition increases are the norm.
The New York Times reported last March that "state and local financing for higher education declined 7 percent in fiscal year 2012," which has put upward pressure on tuition.
However, you have to wonder if WVU will face a tipping point at which enrollment begins to decline because of the cost, especially for out-of-state students. Student debt is already a growing issue at WVU.
According to one report, 57 percent of all WVU graduates leave school with a loan to pay off, and the average size of that loan is $27,000.
That's a substantial amount for some, especially those graduates having trouble finding work in their fields.
WVU has, to its credit, frozen salaries and taken at least some measures to save money. For example, the university now contracts out its printing rather than operating its own print shop.
But simultaneously, WVU is making some huge investments, like the $70 million University Place in Sunnyside that will serve as a mixed-use residential and retail property, and the $26 million purchase of office space in Suncrest.
WVU used to be a bargain, and that made it a draw for students both in-state and out. Perhaps it's unrealistic to believe it would always remain that way.
However, if the tuition and fee increase trend continues at this pace, the university may price itself right out of the market.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.