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MU Board approves tuition increases

MU BOG
May. 10, 2013 @ 09:59 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University's Board of Governors on Thursday approved tuition increases for the upcoming school year that plug part of its budget hole for next year but not all of it.

Marshall is facing a $5.11 million reduction in state support for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1. However, the increases to students will only generate about $1.95 million.

"None of us here wants to raise tuition," said Ray Harrell, the outgoing student body president who is finishing his second year as the student representative on the board. "But our hands are forced so our degrees, and the one I will get Saturday, will be worth something."

Harrell's reference was about earning a degree from an institution that is able to balance its budget, something the administration and a newly formed budget work group must continue to work on. The budget worksheet that was presented to the board on Thursday shows a $1.6 million deficit that must still be closed.

"We started with more than $8 million deficit and narrowed it to $1.6 million," Harrell said. "And only ($1.95 million) was transferred to students."

The tuition increases range from $140 to $318 per semester, depending on the residential and degree status of the student.

West Virginia students will see the lowest increases -- $140 per semester for undergraduates and $153 per semester for graduate students. Both increases are just under 5 percent, bringing the total tuition cost to $2,355 for undergrads and $2,527 for graduate students.

Non-resident students will have even higher increases per semester, $255 and $268, but the increases are below 4 percent of what they paid this year.

Metro students, those living in surrounding counties in Kentucky and Ohio, will see the largest increases, $305 and $318, both rates of at least 5.8 percent.

There were no other fee increases, other than an additional $3 per semester for the Recreation Center, bringing the fee to $199.

To make up the rest of the deficit, officials are proposing cuts to the funded depreciation and classroom enhancement line items, from $1.19 million to $750,000 and $500,000 to $250,000, respectively.

There also is $1.2 million in revenue remaining from 2012 summer sessions and $1.5 million in investment earnings the budget work group is recommending to tap.

The group includes Marshall President Stephen Kopp, Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Heuton, Harrell, Shane Tomblin from the College of Business, Carol Hurula from the Classified Staff Council, Chuck Somerville from the Dean's Council, Dan Holbrook from the Department Chairs' Council, David Steele from Athletics, Provost Gayle Ormiston, Budget Director Mark Robinson and Director of Institutional Research Mike McGuffey.

The group has met three times and will continue to meet until a balanced budget has been drafted. It must be ready by June 11, when the board will convene to vote on the budget.

Kopp described the recommendations within the budget as transitional and not long-term strategies. For example, there is no way to predict now what the summer revenue or investment earnings will look like next year.

"It's a transitional approach to get us to where we need to be next year," Kopp said. "The group has done good work and been engaged and made significant contributions.

"We have positioned ourselves to handle the budget reduction," Kopp added. "Next year, if we have further budget cuts, we'll probably have a very different conversation."

Incoming student body president E.J. Hassan said no one likes to see a tuition increase, but he didn't disagree with the action taken Thursday by the board. Now, he said, it's important to help the student body as a whole understand why tuition increases were unavoidable.

"It could have been a lot worse," said Alexander Graley, who will be a junior next year. "They're not putting it all on us."

The Poca native said he has a classmate who has told him that even with the increases, tuition at Marshall is still more affordable for him as a non-resident student than it is for him back in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth Ott, who will be a senior in the fall, also said Marshall's tuition is fairly reasonable. But she noted that no matter how little the increase is, the issues last month when the administration swept all the departmental accounts without notification has left a sense of distrust.

Still, Ott challenged her peers to take the time to understand the circumstances surrounding the board's decision. It won't make it any easier on the wallet, but it will allow them to understand it's not just raising tuition for the sake of raising tuition.

"I feel like students need to be more informed, and that's part of their responsibility," she said.

The School of Medicine is exempt from increases, while the students in the new pharmacy program will pay an additional $630 for two new fees. And, first-year pharmacy students would see a new fee of $270 per semester.

The university can increase tuition up to 5 percent for resident students without seeking approval from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

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