The state Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) agreed today (Aug. 29) to ask for an exemption from a 9 percent budget cut for FY2004 -2005 being proposed for all state agencies by the Wise administration.

In a special teleconference meeting, commissioners approved a spending plan request that asks for total restoration of $33.9 million in proposed cuts for all public higher education base budget. If total restoration is not achieved, the request asks that any reductions be done proportionately for all of higher educations base budget categories.

“Higher education simply cannot maintain existing services and offer quality education at the current level with this magnitude of a cut for FY 2005 ,”said Chancellor J. Michael Mullen.

The request will be submitted to the state next week. Mullen said interested parties will have plenty of opportunities to make their case before lawmakers approve the final state budget sometime next March.

Going into FY 2004 , the higher education budget was cut by $37.8 million. The proposed cuts for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 together total $71.7 million.

For WVU alone, that translates into $15.4 million for the Morgantown campus and over $17.5 million including the regional campuses.

Commissioners also approved seeking an additional $10 million in need-based financial aid, $10 million for the PROMISE Scholarship, and reclassification of funding for four on-going programs to base budgets including $1.4 million for WVU s eastern medical campus. The additional money for PROMISE is the yearly increase outlined in the law establishing funding for the program.

The chancellors office also plans to begin discussions with university and college representatives on tuition and fees for next year.

“Well need to be flexible,”Mullen said.”What happens with tuition and fees will depend on our budget appropriation for next year.”

Most public colleges and universities raised tuition this fall to help combat last years budget reduction. In WVU s case, in-state tuition was increased by 9.9 percent.