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West Virginia University cuts $7M in staff amid budget crunch

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Dive Brief:

  • West Virginia University is cutting a dozen graduate programs, as well as roughly 130 employees, as it attempts to correct a $45 million budget shortfall. 
  • The public flagship institution’s governing board approved the reductions Friday as it finalized the fiscal year 2024 budget. The staff cuts are estimated to save about $7 million. 
  • The board also voted to raise tuition by about 2.8%, which amounts to $4,824 per semester, or a $132 increase, for in-state undergraduates.

Dive Insight:

West Virginia University is grappling with an enrollment decline all too familiar for many higher education institutions — though it is somewhat unusual for a public flagship to be staring down such a significant budget hole. 

E. Gordon Gee, WVU’s president, has said the falling enrollment is a primary cause for the budget deficit, which could reach $75 million in five to seven years. 

Some pundits, however, have also pinned blame to middling state investment. The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a local think tank, found the state’s public higher ed funding dropped more than $146 million between fiscal year 2013 and 2024 after adjusting for inflation.

WVU already started the process of merging several of its colleges into two, including most recently the College of Creative Arts and the Reed College of Media.

The new program cuts include graduate studies in instructional design and technology and elementary and secondary education, The Associated Press reported.

The university will share other academic programs that are “tagged for further review” the week of July 10, WVU officials said Friday. This is part of the second phase of what they’re calling an “academic transformation,” which started in the spring.

“Our second review of all academic programs is well underway, with the added goal of creating a smaller and more focused program portfolio — aligned with student demand, career opportunities and market trends,” Provost Maryanne Reed said in a statement.

Of the employee cuts, more than 30 were on the faculty side, though none were tenure or tenure-track positions.

This month, 55 people, including many faculty members, signed a public letter, writing that administrators are laying off employees in an unprecedented manner. The faculty also accused the administration of not being transparent with the criteria they were using to determine the cuts.

These reductions will “damage the university’s ability to deliver quality education and fulfill its land grant mission as well as threaten its status as a research institution,” they wrote.

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