By Josh Smith, Contributing Writer
As the state prepares for the new fiscal year, proposing a new budget is the top priority. The House and Senate recently passed the West Virginia state budget, and it was on its way for approval by Gov. Jim Justice. In the proposed budget, cuts affected the Department of Health and Human Resources and Medicaid; however, WLU and universities across the state will also be affected with cuts from higher education.
The proposed budget will cut nearly $30 million from higher education across the state, affecting all four-year institutions. The budget cuts will affect major universities like West Virginia University and Marshall University the most, with a proposed 8.5 percent cut. The average cut relating to the rest of the universities falls between four and five percent, which would include WLU.
“The President’s cabinet had several meetings to discuss and prepare a 2017-18 budget recommendation to the Board of Governors,” said West Liberty University President Dr. Stephen Greiner. “Not knowing what the actual state budget reduction would be, we prepared four budget scenarios that include reductions of two, five, ten and 15 percent.”
The numbers presented may seem very low, but their cuts could be much more devastating than what meets the eye. WVU’s 8.5 percent cut would slash $9 million from its funding, while Marshall’s 8.5 percent cut would slash $4 million. So, even a seemingly small four to five percent cut may be problematic for universities around the state, including WLU.
“Obviously, the size of the reduction in West Liberty’s state appropriation will determine how we manage the budget moving forward,” said WLU Vice President of Finance and Administration Roberta Linger. “We strive to mitigate the effect on the University as much as possible. Moving forward, we should consider areas of cost saving and efficiencies. Academic areas will not be impacted.”
“Another budget reduction from the state will be very unfortunate, of course,” said Interim Dean from the College of Arts and Communication Dr. Matthew Harder. “I personally think it’s sad that the Legislature is considering crippling institutions of higher learning in West Virginia.”
Although the budget was quickly passed through the Legislature, it needed to be passed by Gov. Justice. He did veto the first budget bill, but cuts to higher education are still expected in future budgets. WLU will have to adjust to another year of funding cuts, but it is nothing from which the school cannot move forward.
“One characteristic I have learned about the faculty, staff and students at West Liberty University is that they are resilient,” Greiner said. “Any level of budget of reduction will have a negative impact, but although that West Liberty University ‘can do’ spirit has been dented, it will not break.”
Photo credit: Megan Sayre