PARKERSBURG - Officials with West Virginia University at Parkersburg say while the college has not made any budget cuts yet, they are closing watching a proposed 7.5 percent cut at the state level.
Earlier this year Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered state agencies to reduce their budgets by 7.5 percent to free up $85 million in next year's budget, a task many agencies are struggling to complete.
Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul Hill has warned budget officials about what would happen if he were forced to cut the higher education system budget by an estimated $34 million. The commission asked for an exemption from the cuts in August.
"Public higher education institutions will continue to fall behind their peer institutions in other states," Hill warned in a previously unpublicized Sept. 4 letter to the head of the state Department of Revenue.
Budget cuts may force West Virginia colleges and universities to significantly raise student tuition, eliminate certain degree programs, lose key professors, furlough staff and reduce salaries, he said in the letter.
Katie Wootton, spokeswoman for WVU-P, said so far no cuts have been made locally.
"We were initially told that the CTCs (community and technical colleges) would be included in the 7.5 percent budget cuts. However, we are still waiting to see if it's final or not," she said in an email Monday. "We have not yet made any budget cuts, but we have been making plans in case we should have to move forward with such cuts."
Details of those plans were not immediately available Monday.
Hill's letter also makes clear he has considered changing the terms of the popular Promise Scholarship. Budget cuts could force officials to "consider (pursuing) legislation that limits the Promise Scholarship to students attending the state's public institutions," Hill said.
About 8,100 students receive the Promise, which is for high-achieving West Virginians who go to an in-state college. About 1,000 of them go to private colleges or universities and not state-run institutions. Hill's tentative suggestion, if the Legislature approved it, would save about $4.5 million a year, or about a tenth of the scholarship's total cost.
Hill also warned of significant tuition increases, but argued too much cost already has been passed on to students.
Reporter Michael Erb and the Associated Press contributed to this report.