CHARLESTON – Receiving more than $ 100 million in COVID-19 relief dollars since March 2020 has not been enough to make up for the loss of income at the University of West Virginia, which has resulted in higher tuition fees.
WVU’s Board of Governors in June approved a budget of $ 1.1 billion for fiscal year 2022, covering the 2021-2022 school year, a 1.5% budget increase from $ 1.083 billion. dollars for fiscal year 2021.
The council agreed to increase tuition fees by 2%. The tuition and annual undergraduate fees for 2021-2022 are $ 9,144 for in-state students and $ 25,824 for out-of-state students. The increased rate is equivalent to an increase of $ 84 per semester for state residents and an increase of $ 252 for non-residents.
“The last thing we want to do is raise tuition fees, but we need to invest in our university” Paula Congelio, vice president of finance and chief financial officer of WVU, said in a telephone interview Thursday.
“We want to improve the experience for our students, so we need to invest in our faculty and staff. “ Congelio continued. “We want to invest in our campus. We want our online student experience to be better, so we need to invest in technology to make these courses as interesting as they could be elsewhere. And we need to keep our facilities up to the standards our students are looking for so that they are encouraged to come to Morgantown. “
The 2% increase is assumed to represent a 1.5% reduction in state funding to WVU in the general revenue budget for fiscal year 2022. Other assumptions include a decrease in enrollment for the first time in first year, a 3% increase in housing income with occupancy rates remaining stable, increases in scholarship spending for eligible students, a modest increase in income from grants and various contracts and $ 5 million in COVID- 19 expenses.
The board of governors kept tuition rates at the same level in the previous fiscal year – five months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – although originally school officials had forecast a 2% increase that year. In FY2020, tuition fees increased only 1.4%.
“Due to the pandemic and the financial hardships of our families, students and families, we have not implemented this tuition increase. “ said Congelio. “In 2019, before that, we had the smallest tuition fee increases the university has seen in at least two decades.”
The tuition and annual undergraduate fees for 2020-2021 were $ 8,976 for in-state students and $ 25,320 for out-of-state students. In the spring and fall of 2020 and through the winter and spring of 2021, WVU moved many classes online, students were frequently tested for COVID-19 and masks and distancing were required.
WVU recorded $ 4.9 million in COVID-19 spending after disbursements in fiscal year 2021, with $ 5 million in COVID-19 spending estimated for fiscal year 2022. The university received more than 104 million dollars of three installments of federal COVID-19 relief, including $ 20.2 million from the CARES Act in March 2020, $ 30.7 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in December, and $ 54 million American Rescue Plan dollars in March 2021.
Congelio said the $ 104 million still did not cover all of WVU’s COVID-19-related expenses and lost revenue due to declining enrollment, cancellation of ancillary programs and summer camps, and the loss of international students during the pandemic. These figures were not immediately available.
“There has been so much reduced during the year”, said Congelio. “Half of that money had to go to students for financial aid. We were able to use the other half to supplement our lost income and increase our expenses, and it did not fully supplement us, so there was always a gap. “
Students will also see an increase in university fees of $ 24, of which $ 12 will go to student mental health services.
As the university plans to expand its mental health services, the pandemic has accelerated the need for services to help students overcome the psychological effects of the pandemic.
The West Virginia legislature passed a general revenue budget in April that included a 1.5% cut to four- and two-year colleges and universities. With a 1.5% reduction – or a funding decrease of $ 1.7 million – WVU received $ 109.3 million for fiscal 2022.
State funding represents approximately 10% of WVU’s total budget. The university received $ 110.7 million in state funding in fiscal years 2021 and 2020, compared to $ 105.9 million in fiscal year 2019.
WVU saw a 3.8% drop in student numbers from 29,959 students in fall 2018 to 29,107 students in fall 2020 between the Morgantown campus, WVU Tech at Beckley and Potomac State College in Preston County. Even with an 82% student retention rate maintained for first-year students who enrolled in 2019 and continued to college in 2020, declining enrollment took a toll on earnings.
In an effort to cut costs, WVU has cut its budget by 2.2%, from $ 1.107 billion in fiscal 2020 to $ 1.083 billion in 2021. The university has also reduced the number of full-time employees by 5.3%, from 5,557 employees in 2019 to 5,368 employees in 2021. Congelio said the university is maintaining the hiring freeze and using a voluntary departure incentive scheme
“I know we keep looking for ways to do things better”, said Congelio. “With automation and so much that we do on campus, we are always looking to be more efficient… if we are to be a smaller university from an enrollment perspective, we have to change the way we do business to meet these incoming revenues.
Tuition fees increased 5.7% in 2019 and 5% in 2018. The amount of tuition in the state has increased 3.3% over the past four years, from $ 8,856 to the 2018-2019 school year at $ 9,144 for the next school year. Out-of-state tuition fees increased 3.5% over the same period, from $ 24,960 in 2018-19 to $ 25,824 for the next school year. Congelio said the university is trying to keep tuition fee increases as low as possible.
“We took a strategic position a few years ago and knew that we had to remain competitive with our tuition fees” said Congelio. “We wanted the total tuition fees paid by our students to be a bit predictable going forward… over the past couple of years we’ve been really listening to these rates of increase.”