West Virginia higher ed cuts raise concern with coal struggles
- West Virginia spends about $2,000 per student since 2008, in part, because of the state's declining coal economy and tax revenue shortages.
- Advocates are hoping that the proven economic impact of the state's public colleges — more than $2 billion— will make the case for why the state should increase educational access, but the numbers don't mesh with the state's low marks in educational attainment and measures of affordability.
- A retiring WV community college president says challenges to encourage higher education among high school graduates are even more difficult in the state's rural areas: “You are trying to entice them into a college education,” Glenville State President Peter Barr said. “And you know the importance of that college education. The idea that you would cut funding to higher education is — somehow — I really don’t understand that.”
West Virginia is a rural state struggling to find a foothold for public higher education against a backdrop of dying industries, much like Louisiana and Wyoming. And for state lawmakers, balancing the effort to jumpstart industry with research and increased commercial development around college towns doesn't begin with building colleges themselves, but in building industry to spur the jobs which make college affordable.
While the politics yield a chicken-or-egg perspective on higher education funding, colleges can help in making the turn with investments in startup innovation and entrepreneurship which can serve as a foundation to new economy in the state. Howard University, which has struggled with enrollment in recent years, is matching an uptick in enrollment with entrepreneurial development. Other institutions like the University of Connecticut are seeking to create businesses in spite of dwindling public appropriations. Institutions can't wait for legislators to jumpstart their revenues; it is up to campuses to create the opportunities for themselves.
- WV Public Broadcasting Higher education funding and the future after coal