Students question how tuition money is spent

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(THE PICKET) – In the days after the West Virginia State Legislature released audit findings showing questionable spending by Shepherd University, students are concerned with their increasing cost of tuition and where that money is really going.

“I think it’s ridiculous that Shepherd expects tuition to be raised after they can’t even correctly document where our money is going,” said Kelsey Hinzman, a junior chemistry major.

The cost of in-state tuition has increased over the last several years with current in-state tuition listed at $3,415 and out-of-state tuition at $8,314, according to the university website.

“Executive staff is grapping with (the budget) now. (The budget) will have a public competent, at least employees will have a chance to react to the proposed budget,” said University Executive Director of Communications Valerie Owens. “I don’t think tuition has been decided at this point (for next school year).”

The board of governors normally meets in the spring and with recommendations from the president and her executive staff about the cost of tuition, she added.

West Virginia colleges and universities will be subject a 4 percent budget cut, as they have the last four years, according to the state budget.

The 2015 budget indicates it will continue to hurt the state’s economic future by driving up the cost of higher education and cutting important early childhood education and intervention programs.

“I think the majority of the audit’s findings look much better when set in the proper context, however some are really inexcusable like the $95 dinner for two being the worse,” said Graham Scott, a senior political science student. Scott listened to an explanation about the disputed spending Tuesday, Oct. 20, by Tom Segar, acting vice president for enrollment management. “I know the university has complaints about the findings being twisted to harm the university’s image, but I think Shepherd could have done a better job in not leaving themselves vulnerable to these types of interpretations in the first place,” Scott added.

Silas Wade, a senior communications major, is concerned with how the university can make large purchases, while cutting funding to campus programs and groups.

“I don’t see how a university can justify making elaborate purchases on limos and wine tasting tours and at the same time issues a crippling budget cut to its program board that results in students losing their jobs, and countless on-campus community building events and programs getting cancelled,” Wade said. “It seems to me like the university does not have its students best interests at heart.”

The audit reports that 11 people took part in a wine tasting event that was charged to Shepherd University using a purchase card.

According to Shepherd’s website, they hosted the annual national Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges conference in 2013 and 10 senior COPLAC administrators and one Shepherd administrator paid for the tour. The cost was less then $27 per participant.

“Those items you cited are still being investigated as part of Shepherd’s response to the auditor. Uploaded information will be disseminated on a rolling basis via the website as we are able to established clarity on these issues that relate to three-year-old-purchases,” Owens said.

Brooke Binns is a staff writer for The Picket. She can be reached by email at tbinns01@rams.shepherd.edu. 

Todd Bowman is a staff writer for The Picket. He can be reached by email at tbowma04@rams.shepherd.edu or on Twitter @todd_bowman87.