A group of West Virginia Democratic delegates is calling for a special session to address West Virginia University’s budget shortfall.
Del. Evan Hansen, D-Morgantown, said the legislature shares responsibility for the university’s budget crisis, which has resulted in plans to slash 143 faculty positions and eliminate nearly 30 majors. The university’s board approved the cuts last week.
Hansen pointed out that over the years, the university’s funding has declined by tens of millions of dollars, and added people statewide will feel the impacts of a diminished university system.
“It’s a big hit on the local economy and on the regional economy, and for the families of people who are losing their jobs,” Hansen noted. “Across the state, there’s a lot less discretionary funds available for various programs that provide services in counties all across West Virginia.”
The university is facing a $45 million deficit, which its president, E. Gordon Gee, said is due to declining state funding and decreased enrollment. In addition to Hansen, three other delegates are asking the governor to call the legislature into session to support the university.
Hansen emphasized some of the programs targeted for cuts related to diversifying the energy sector and others, have value for the employers and businesses in the Mountain State.
“For example, the public administration program is very important in West Virginia,” Hansen outlined. “The parks and recreation program that’s being eliminated is something that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, given that we’re leaning into an outdoor recreation and tourism based economy. “
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, West Virginia is rapidly losing its population, and is among more than a dozen states experiencing population losses between 2021 and 2022.