Shepherd University President Suzanne Shipley traveled to Charleston, W.Va. recently in an effort to encourage the governor and legislators to increase the funding provided to Shepherd.
Last year, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin ordered a 7.5 percent budget cut to government agencies including many schools of higher learning such as Shepherd.
Many students felt the pressure of these cuts when their professors did not have the departmental funds to provide them with physical copies of the semester syllabus, or as sophomore Eli Tracewell points out, unable to write on the board because they were not supplied with dry erase markers.
According to the Charleston Daily Mail Capitol Reporter, in early August, State Department of Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss issued a letter stating that government agencies should anticipate similar budget cuts in the coming year.
On Oct. 18, Shipley held a stakeholder breakfast on campus to discuss the university’s need for financial support moving forward. The Picket reached out to both Berkeley County Senator John Unger and Jefferson County Senator Herb Snyder for their input. At the time of writing, The Picket has not heard back from Unger, but Snyder engaged in a phone call interview wherein he expressed his views on the current state of affairs for colleges in West Virginia.
Snyder claimed that he believes the need for budget cuts stemmed from a (now resolved) mistake made in a 2011 alternative energy bill regarding flex fuel where drivers who used cars that could run on natural gases, such as ethanol instead of gasoline, could receive tax cuts of up to $7,500. What legislators did not anticipate was that many cars not designed to be green were able to exploit this loophole in taxes allowing many people to avoid substantial taxation.
According to Snyder, this continued to be an issue even after the issue was resolved and the state government lost a lot of money. “This flex fuel debacle cost the state $30 million and potentially could cost a total of $100 million,” said Snyder.
The senator expressed the importance of students not blaming the university. “This is the fault of legislators, not universities,” he said. “The greatest travesty of the matter is that future generations of college students are the ones who truly pay for these mistakes.”
He made it clear that the governor is ultimately the one who decides on the budget cuts. “I believe that the governor should take some money out of the Rainy Day Fund to assist in funding higher education because if anything, these are rainy days,” Snyder said. The Rainy Day Fund, more formally known as the Revenue Shortfall Reserve Fund, is a stockpile of money the state saves to use in the event of an emergency, such as a national disaster, and Snyder considers the shortage of school funds an emergency.
“We should be able to use money to fund schools from the Rainy Day Fund with little effect to the content of the fund,” stated Snyder.