Editorial: Mountain State education left in dust by local, federal lawmakers

After graduating high school, there are plenty of things young adults have to worry about. Picking a career path. Deciding if college is the right choice. Preparing to move to another city or state. One thing that should not have to weigh too heavily on their minds is the cost of education.

It’s no mystery that tuition rates across the country have continually increased in recent years. However, a new report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy recently stated that higher education is far less obtainable in West Virginia than anywhere else in the country.

Tuition rates have reportedly doubled in the Mountain State since 2002 — an increase of around $4,200 — and student debt has gone up 70 percent. In addition, the state has decreased higher education funding by $130 million since 2008, according to WSAZ.

Many West Virginia students depend on state-funded programs such as PROMISE to attend college, but even that scholarship has not kept up with the tuition increases. PROMISE was originally created to cover 100 percent of tuition, but it now only covers 70 percent.

PROMISE and other programs have been on the chopping block every legislative session. Education programs have also been cut at the federal level.

President Donald Trump proposed a budget that would make cuts to the Federal Pell Grant Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, grants for teachers and reduce Federal Work-Study.

When education is not valued by the president of the United States himself, there’s no surprise that others in power would follow his example.

Counties such as Boone and Logan have seen extreme cuts of jobs in the school system. After school programs and the arts are being removed. Libraries are being shut down. Teachers in Kanawha County were required to draw numbers from a hat to see who would be laid off.

The state already has many areas where students are at a disadvantage before graduation. Increasing tuition and cutting away at vital financial aid programs is not the answer to the problems that currently face West Virginia. Now more than ever the state needs more diversified education because of the decline of the coal industry.

Lawmakers are making students in the Mountain State fall behind, and if cuts continue there will be almost no way for students here to catch back up to those across the country.