CHARLESTON (AP) — West Virginia colleges are slashing payrolls and making other adjustments to compensate for losing $42 million in state funding over the past two years.
About 13 West Virginia University employees have been fired as part of a reduction in force for this budget year, according to the Charleston Gazette. WVU spokesman John Bolt said more than 100 positions have been left vacant, and departments have been restructured.
“WVU responded to the state budget reductions in several ways, always keeping in mind the need to protect the core academic mission,” Bolt said.
Marshall University spokeswoman Ginny Painter said about three dozen positions have been eliminated through attrition, but there have been no layoffs. Some departments there have been restructured too.
“We continue to actively adjust our operations to accommodate the budget cuts,” Painter said.
West Virginia State University has fired 10 employees and eliminated 15 already vacant positions. Also, WVU-Tech and Shepherd University officials have chosen to not fill some positions.
“These are the things we’re doing to try to deal with these reductions in state budgets. All of us are facing this same issue,” said Valerie Owens, a spokeswoman for Shepherd. “We’re trying to be proactive and trying to preserve all of the things that we do here.”
For the past two fiscal years, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has cut state agency spending by 7.5 percent.
In fiscal 2014, colleges assumed a greater cut of nearly 9 percent to safeguard financial aid, according to Higher Education Policy Commission spokeswoman Jessica Tice. That cut resulted in a total reduction in higher education funding of more than $33 million.
For fiscal 2015, higher education institutions had to cut their budgets by about 3 percent, or $9.6 million.
West Virginia cut more in state funding for higher education than any other state besides Wyoming, according to a report released in May by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Jim Nelson, a spokesman for Bluefield State College — where positions also have been frozen and merged — said that despite the hardships, budget cuts force schools to re-examine the way they run things. Bluefield State has used grant money to install solar panels to light parking lots and has cut back on travel, with administrators often attending meetings via web cam.
“Formerly, we wouldn’t have even thought about hopping into a car and driving to another part of the state. But we had to get leaner,” Nelson said.
But he said if state legislators don’t make funding for higher education a priority soon, the consequences could be significant.
“For a long time, we’ve been asked to do more and more with less and less,” Nelson said. “At some point, that’s got to stop, because, if you continue to do that, you may be asking us to do everything with nothing.”