In 2018, when Mirta Martin became president of Fairmont State University, she never imagined leading a school that was already in a dire financial state because of a pandemic. But because of measures she took upon taking the job, she doesn’t have to raise tuition in the face of the coronavirus.
“I can tell you that as a first-generation student, as the first in my family to go to college, I am all too sensitive about the plight of our students. And, you know, while $50 some may think it’s not a lot, for others, it’s the difference between putting food on their table and not putting food on their table,” Martin said.
Fairmont State University, like many of the colleges across the state, faced the question of whether or not to recoup lost revenue from housing and board refunds from last semester and increased cost of necessary cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment by raising tuition.
At West Virginia University, where there’s a slight budget deficit for the fiscal year, officials decided against raising tuition for the first time in over 20 years.
At both West Virginia University and Fairmont University, officials have made up for their deficit by tightening spending and limiting non-essential employee travel.
Marshall University, Concord University and the University of Charleston have also announced that they will not be raising tuition and fees.
Glenville State College, and West Liberty University plan to raise tuition and fees by a small margin this semester.
West Liberty University, which is seeing a $200 increase in tuition for full time students taking 12 or more credit hours, is starting an initiative through its foundation office called Helping Hilltoppers to help students offset the added cost.
As President Stephen Greiner explains, this will cover the same ground as the CARES Act funding distributed by the federal government.
“The reason behind this is to assure or to help them return to West Liberty and have funds available if they need them for the kinds of expenses that students [have]. Whether it’s medical or whether its food, whether it’s housing, whether it’s child care, those kinds of things that will help a student stay enrolled at West Liberty,” Greiner said.
This fund is in no way tied to federal CARES Act money, or any other state or federal funding, he said.
While colleges across the state have opted for either a small increase, or no increase at all to cost of attendance over last year, the question of sustainability comes to mind.
West Virginia University Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop thinks the college will be able to maintain its current operating budget without a significant cost increase to students in the coming years.
“If there are tuition increases, they’ll be much more moderate, as in the 1, 2, 2 and half-percent increases as opposed to the 4 or 5 percent we’ve done in the past. I think it’s just a different environment, and we’re really trying to be thoughtful about the burden we put on our students,” Alsop said.
As of now, most colleges in the state plan to resume in-person classes in the fall.