West Virginia University will use a combination of streamlining, operating efficiencies and tuition and fee increases to meet next years budget reductions, said Scott Kelley, WVU vice president for administration, finance and human resources.


Lawmakers approved a state budget Sunday (March 16) for the fiscal year beginning July 1 which totals just over $3 billion, up 2 percent from the current budget. Higher education would receive $339 million, or 11 percent of the total.


Though the state budget grew by nearly $65 million, state agencies, including higher education, have endured rounds of spending cuts while absorbing increases in health care and insurance costs. Gov. Bob Wise ordered all state agencies to cut their budgets by 3.4 percent this year and prepare for 10 percent reductions next year to combat a $250 million deficit.


“The cut alone means WVU will have to do with about $17.4 million less,”Dr. Kelley said.”Combine that with higher PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency) and BRIM (Board of Risk and Insurance Management) expenses, we are talking having to make up $21 million to $22 million.”


The passage of HB2224 (higher education reform legislation) during the recent session will give WVU several tools to help it deal with the cutbacks and make the University more efficient and effective, he noted.


“This bill gives us the ability to raise in-state tuition by 9.5 percent if we meet certain criteria,”he said.”We fully expect to raise out-of-state tuition by at least that much. That will give us an additional $8 million to $10 million while remaining competitive in the market.”


Kelley said the higher ed reform bill, signed Tuesday (March 18) by Gov. Bob Wise, also gives universities and colleges nearly 20 powers they did not have designed to cut expenses and increase operating efficiencies. Some of those provisions include expanded use of the Procurement Card, exemptions for filing certain receiving reports, consolidation of purchasing procedures and consolidation of payroll, human resources, financial aid and warehousing operations.


“All of these will generate some significant savings,”he said.


Kelley also noted that a severance package is being considered for classified staff that could result in additional cost savings.


Elimination of programs and services along with layoffs would be an absolute”last resort,”he added.


Lawmakers softened the blow for the states three medical schools, adding $5 million to their budgets. For the WVU Health Sciences Center, the cut was reduced from $6.5 million (13 percent) to $2.2 million (4.8 percent).


“There is no question that the voices of WVU supporters, and of our employees in Morgantown and Charleston, were heard in this debate,”said Dr. Robert DAlessandri, vice president of health sciences at WVU and dean of the School of Medicine.”The 13 percent cut that was proposed would have been impossible to manage without taking actions that would have had a drastic long term effect on the institution.


“With the partial restoration, we will be somewhat better off, but it is still a very serious situation,”DAlessandri added.”The cuts in the final budget are substantial, and they will have an impact on us. We are also facing the possibility of a $2 million increase in charges from BRIM . We are going to be looking at everything we do to see if there is a way to do it better. Were also going to look hard for new sources of revenue.”


One positive WVU has going for it is enrollment growth. With applications and acceptances running ahead of last years numbers, predictions are the main campus could grow another 500-1,000 students, officials claim.


“Our goal is to maintain providing a high-quality education without sacrificing programs and personnel,”Kelley said.”It will be difficult, but we think we can do it.”