Students attending any of West Virginia’s four-year public colleges and universities will see their tuition increase this fall.
Institutions looking to raise tuition by more than 5 percent for the 2014-15 academic year were approved by the Higher Education Policy Commission on Monday, as required by state law.
Those schools seeing the highest increases include Fairmont State University at 8.3 percent, West Virginia University at 7.8 percent and Concord University at 7 percent.
Tuition at Marshall University, West Virginia State University and Shepherd University will increase by 5 percent.
Overall, the average tuition increase of the schools overseen by the HEPC, which exclude private and community and technical schools, is $320, or 5.4 percent.
That makes the average college tuition in West Virginia about $6,200 per year for state residents.
WVU is the most expensive public university in the state at $6,960 for residents and $20,424 for out-of-state students.
HEPC officials unanimously approved the tuition proposals on Monday, but Commissioner David Hendrickson said he worries West Virginia will not succeed at getting more students enrolled if tuition continues to climb year after year.
“At some point in time, we’re going to have to make education more of a priority if that’s really where we’re going to go — if we want to try to prop our state up and advance business and want our citizens to be educated,” Hendrickson said. “To me it’s just discouraging. Every year we have to listen to the same music over and over and over again.”
While Hendrickson said he didn’t blame school administrators for hiking tuition after their state funding was decreased by 2.6 percent, state cuts to higher education only hurt students.
“It seems like the reason higher education is such an easy mark is because folks that look at these issues know there’s a mechanism out there for making up the gap, and that mechanism is raising tuition and making kids pay more,” he said. “It just seems like the people that need the education the most are the ones that can’t afford it and are the ones who pay the biggest price.”
However, the schools increasing tuition the most are also offering more financial aid this year, HEPC officials said Monday.
WVU, for example, is providing an extra $1.5 million in need-based scholarships, and is providing more financial aid to its Promise scholars.
The Promise Scholarship, which once provided a free ride for high-achieving in-state students at $4,750 is covering less and less, and at WVU means students still need more than $2,000 to pay for tuition.
WVU will fill that gap for Promise scholars this year to help ease the tuition increase, a spokesman said Monday.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the HEPC approved cutbacks to its own operating budget to address more than 3 percent in state and federal funding reductions.
The HEPC’s Division of Science and Research will be among the hardest hit, losing nearly $330,000 in funding cutbacks.
The Division of Science and Research works to get more West Virginia students involved in the STEM fields.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.