Multiple higher education bills introduced in W.Va. Legislature

The West Virginia Legislature has introduced a number of bills concerning higher education in the first days of session. 

Marybeth Beller, associate professor and director of Masters in Public Administration, weighed in on higher education legislation and its possible effects.

“I think we are going to continue to see more and more bills regarding higher education,” Beller said. “Part of the problem with this is that we of course are in the time of a budget deficit, but higher education is not required to be funded.”

The introduction of bills like Senate Bill 324 comes shortly after the proposed budget plan by Gov. Jim Justice.

The new governor discussed many of the budget proposals for the upcoming year last week at his State of the State Address.

The West Virginia State Budget Office outlines what is included in the “Governor’s Budget Presentation to Finance Committees FY 2018.”

According to the presentation found on the West Virginia State Budget Office website, the budget proposal included a 4.4 percent cut to West Virginia University and Marshall University.

The Executive Budget shows the cuts for Marshall University will result to nearly $2.8 million.

Beller said the legislature could decide to not fund higher education because they are not required, but they also do not have to do what the governor proposed.

Beller also said that in concern to the budget deficit and cuts, Marshall might have to look at continuing to raise tuition.

“Any chance at developing our economy is going to rest on an educated workforce,” Beller said.

Bills similar to SB 324 are being introduced in the House and Senate concerning the issues facing higher education.

The text of the bill can be found on the West Virginia Legislature website, where the piece of legislation’s purpose is stated.

According to the bill itself, “The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the Governor and Legislature from administering equal across-the-board budget cuts to all higher education and to protect community colleges from disproportionate budget cuts.”

Sen. Robert Beach, D-Monongalia and Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, led the effort to prohibit the cuts as lead sponsors of SB 324.

SB 324 was included in the motion and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and then to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

Beller also said students and parents can call their representatives and voice their opinions to their legislators on concerns with higher education.

“Legislators respond to phone calls and letters,” Beller said.

Kylee Hurley can be contacted at [email protected]