CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Although higher education is absorbing about one-third of the $75 million of cuts in the proposed 2013-14 state budget, Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul Hill said the commission decided not to make any cuts to financial aid programs for students.Hill told the Senate Finance Committee on Monday that preserving funding for Promise scholarships, Higher Education grants and other student financial aid at the current $92.13 million level was the commission's top priority, although it means 8.9 percent budget cuts for state colleges and universities.Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has requested that nonexempted state agencies cut their 2013-14 budgets by 7.5 percent."We're asking the institutions for the most part to take across-the-board cuts," Hill said.Those cuts range from $419,427 at Potomac State College to $10.39 million at West Virginia University.However, the institutions will benefit from the full funding for student financial aid, he said."Of course, most of that money flows back to the institutions," Hill said of the $92.13 million.Also Monday:
Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, asked if there has been an audit of higher education similar to the Public Works LLC audit of public education. Among other findings, that audit concluded that state public education was top-heavy with administrators at the Department of Education.
"The last time I looked at the auditor's list, it was pretty staggering," he said of the annual report from the state auditor, which includes lists of all state employees with salaries of $80,000 or more.For higher education employees, the list covers 44 single-spaced pages.Hill said the HEPC reviews budgets from all colleges and universities, but added, "We have general oversight, but it's not getting into individual personnel decisions."Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, said it was disappointing that while the Revitalization Committee for West Virginia University Institute of Technology had recommended $7.8 million of needed improvements for the Montgomery campus, the governor's 2013-14 budget plan does not provide any funding for those upgrades.Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.