Report finds higher education has become less accessible in West Virginia

Courtesy of MGN Online
Courtesy of MGN Online(WBKO)
Published: Mar. 27, 2017 at 10:33 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Paying for a college education in West Virginia has become more difficult in recent years because of state budget cuts, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Monday they released a report showing how much more costs and debt students are facing.

"These past few years with the budget crisis that's going on, the areas we've noticed that have taken the hardest hit have been higher education," senior policy analyst Sean O'Leary said.

They say tuition's gone up $4,200 since 2002, student debt's gone up 70 percent in the last dozen years, and the value of the Promise Scholarship hasn't kept pace.

That scholarship used to cover 100 percent of tuition, but now it's down to 70 percent, the report says.

The report says state spending on higher education has gone down by $130 million since 2008, taking inflation into account.

The author of the report says it's a trend lawmakers in Charleston should rethink.

"We need to stop looking at higher education as something that we're spending money on, that we can cut back on," O'Leary said, "and look at it as something we're investing in and building for our future."

Marshall history professor Dan Holbrook agrees.

"Many people have forgotten that a college education is not just for the benefit of the student," Holbrook said. "People realized 150 years ago having an educated populace is the key to good citizenship and is the key to economic success."

The report also says colleges and universities contributed about $2.7 billion to the state's economy in 2014.