Listening Lab Receives $70,000 Less Than Needed


Among the many higher education budget cuts announced this session was a unique program at Marshall that only those who needed the services know about. The Luke Lee Listening Language Learning Lab is dealing with cuts.

What the L Does.

Clara Johnson is a kindergartener now, but before that she learned to understand what she was hearing and how to speak by taking part in the Luke Lee Listening and Language Learning Lab at Marshall. The “L” Lab as it’s known for short, allows hearing impaired children who wear hearing aids or have cochlear implants to learn how to listen and speak. Clara’s mom Amanda said she doesn’t know where there family would be without the “L” lab. 

I think it would be one of two ways and that would either be with an interpreter and the whole family would be learning sign language, along with trying to assist with speech or we would have moved out of state to find another program like this to support her language development. – Amanda Johnson

Clara completed preschool at the “L” lab and now pays a visit just twice a week for hour long sessions to continue to learn and track her development as she progresses through regular kindergarten classes with her twin sister. But Clara isn’t the only member of the Johnson family who has needed the lab. Amanda’s three-year-old daughter Christen is now in the preschool program. She doesn’t have cochlear implants like her sister yet, but only uses hearing aids. 

Dealing with the Cuts.

When Amanda found out that the “L” lab’s budget was one of the many things within higher education in the state to receive less money than it requested, she was worried. She wonders if those in the position of leadership at the state level know what the lab is realling doing.


Jodi Cottrell is the Program Director of the “L”. She’s the first Listening and Spoken Language Specialist in the state. And thus the program she runs is the only of its kind in West Virginia. When she heard that the center only received $105,000 of its requested $175,000, she was distraught.

Oh I was devastated, I mean I was shocked and I was angry and my big thing is just frustration because I don’t think he knows what he’s cutting, I truly don’t think he realizes the value that this program has had. – Jodi Cottrell

The he that Cottrell speaks of is Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. He had the final say on cuts to the program that sits on the third floor of Smith Hall at Marshall. After making it through the House and Senate without cuts, Tomblin made line item cuts in his budget vetoes that included the cut to the lab. 

Cottrell says she understands it wasn’t that the lab was targeted; it just falls under the Higher Education Policy Commissions Special Resource Funding.

What’s next for the L.

Cottrell and the others that work at the facility are still optimistic because a Study Resolution was passed that will allow the legislature to look at the program again during the special session. The study resolution will look at whether to provide the program with the full amount of money and whether to expand it into other areas of the state, which is something that Cottrell was looking into before hearing about the cuts. The program has had students travel from as far as Parkersburg and Beckley to take the preschool classes. And has worked with students in Clarksburg over skype through distance technology therapy.


In the meantime while Cottrell and the parents of the program hope for future funding, Marshall University has agreed to help fund the program for the next year, covering the $70,000 that’s needed to fill out the budget.

Hope for the Future.

Cottrell and parents like Katie Counts whose three year old daughter Cailyn is part of the preschool program are grateful that Marshall is helping out. But Counts says she’s still worried about what it all means. 

It has been invaluable, not only has it taught her so much, but I feel like it’s a teaching tool for me as well as far as how to carry on therapy at home, it’s a way of life. – Katie Counts

Because in the end, it’s all she knows for Cailyn.