By The Editorial Board
September 15, 2023
Over the past month, the usually placid campus of West Virginia University has been roiled by student protests and a faculty vote of no confidence in the school’s president, Gordon Gee, over his plan to impose sweeping budget cuts. The uproar is a sign of what’s in store for other public universities in an era of falling enrollment — and many have only themselves to blame.
West Virginia’s board of governors will vote today on Gee’s proposal to eliminate 169 faculty positions and 10% of undergraduate and graduate majors at the university’s flagship campus. Students will no longer be able to major in any foreign languages; only Spanish and Mandarin will even still be offered in-person. Some graduate degrees in mathematics and music, among other subjects, will be discontinued. If the cuts go through, dozens of professors could lose their jobs by the end of the current academic year.
Gee has defended his actions as necessary to plug the university’s budget deficit, which is expected to grow from $45 million to $75 million by 2028. He blames the shortfall on years of cuts in public funding and lower-than-projected tuition revenue, caused by fewer college-going high-school graduates in West Virginia and steep drops in out-of-state and foreign-student enrollment. Phasing out undersubscribed programs, Gee says, will allow the school to invest in subjects that are “relevant to the students of today and the industry of tomorrow.”