The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

November 9, 2013

W.Va. forums focus on higher education costs

SOUTH CHARLESTON — West Virginia officials are discussing ways to tackle rising higher education costs.

Several public forums were held this week to talk about financing higher education, including one Thursday on Marshall University’s South Charleston campus.

Two others were held at Marshall University in Huntington.

The Charleston Daily Mail reports that the idea was to bring state lawmakers face-to-face with members of the higher education community and local communities for discussion.

Thursday’s forum was attended by state Sens. Erik Wells and Corey Palumbo and Delegate Nancy Guthrie — all Democrats from Kanawha County.

West Virginia’s public colleges and universities are coping with a 7.5 percent cut in state funding this year, leaving them to try to make up for the budget gaps.

“We need to make a strong case to the governor that higher education can’t afford any more cuts, period,” Guthrie said. “Higher education can’t do this and function. If you want educated West Virginians, that’s it.”

The conversation also included ideas about new funding sources that could benefit the state and be funneled toward higher education.

Ideas included widening the state sales tax to include online sales, new taxes on natural gas and coal, increasing the tax on soda and instituting a higher tax on cigarettes.

But the feasibility of those ideas was varied in the eyes of lawmakers on hand.

Wells urged the audience to pressure politicians to funnel more money toward higher education.

“Not just the presidents of the colleges and universities but all of you, show up at the Capitol,” he said. “Show up en masse and you’ll put on the political pressure. Because you have that political pressure, you just haven’t exerted that political pressure.”

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