By Staff Writers
In August, WVU President Gordon Gee sparked student demonstrators and earned a (symbolic) no-confidence resolution from faculty after proposing deep cuts to staff and programs. Despite the loud and passionate reaction, the school’s board of governors approved most of the cuts—28 academic programs and 143 faculty positions--a move administrators insist is not simply a reaction to the university's $45 million deficit, but part of an inevitable transformational strategy to secure its future.
The story of how WVU got here varies depending on who you ask. You can read some analysis here and here. Gee cited declining post-pandemic enrollment and a national crisis of confidence in higher education as more young people choose the workforce over college, and pointed to shrinking enrollment and steady expenses in specific academic programs. Others called out WVU’s big bets of growth and investments in student services for areas like mental health and wellness.
WVU’s academic and faculty cutbacks were shocking for their size and suddenness. However, their larger import may be how they influence the way other financially stressed colleges and universities go about the business of making painful, but necessary, resource reallocations in the future.
Meanwhile, in Happy Valley, Penn State waits for state lawmakers to break a deadlock that has held up this year’s state funding (some are calling for tuition freezes and more transparency). According to the Centre Daily Times, trustees voted to request nearly $483 million in total state funds--$120 million more than the $363 million it expects to receive this year—for the 2024-25 academic year.
The 33% increase is aimed at increasing its per in-state student allotment from the current $5,757, the lowest among the state-related universities, to $8,754, the level received by Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (second lowest behind Pitt and Temple). In total funding, however, Penn State receives the highest amount behind the state system, which is set to receive $585.6 million in 2023-24 and includes 14 universities across Pennsylvania.
As Forbes points out, Penn State is among the list of universities saying it needs a reset due to a budget deficit. Under Dr. Benapudi’s leadership, Penn State is headed toward a balanced budget by Summer of 2025, but as the Forbes piece notes, “WVU’s academic and faculty cutbacks were shocking for their size and suddenness. However, their larger import may be how they influence the way other financially stressed colleges and universities go about the business of making painful, but necessary, resource reallocations in the future.”