By THE BLUE & GRAY PRESS EDITORIAL BOARD
Last week, The Blue & Gray Press reported on the University of Mary Washington’s planned cuts in response to the Virginia state government’s $880 million budget shortfall. All other higher education institutions in Virginia have implemented similar cuts in response to lower than expected state funds.
On Sept. 15, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a bipartisan budget deal that will tap into the commonwealth’s rainy day fund in order to make up for the budget shortfall, according to the Associated Press. Along with these funds, Gov. McAuliffe and the House of Delegates also announced “cuts of $192 million to state agencies, $90 million for higher education and $60 million for aide to local governments over the next two years” to assist in making up the difference.
The plan also stated that K-12 funding will not be cut and there will be no increases to Virginia taxes, according to AP.
Gov. McAuliffe and the state legislature faced a difficult situation, and unfortunately had to straddle a thin line between cutting certain funds while saving others. It is hard to say whether every decision made will be the most effective, but it is clear that these cuts are not going to be easy, especially for Virginia’s universities. According to the Lynchburg News & Advance, the legislation dissuades tuition increases, and urges universities to adjust their budgets through “productivity and operating efficiencies.”
Thankfully, however, students may not have to shoulder the burden of these budget cuts. Gov. McAuliffe and the state are taking careful steps to cut spending so that tuition will not rise. According to AP, financial aid will not be cut and Gov. McAuliffe urged universities to avoid tuition hikes. While these steps are important, the fact remains that universities and colleges throughout Virginia are going to have to react to these cuts in efficient ways.
These cuts have already forced UMW to take unfortunate measures in order to make up for our decreased budget. The University instituted a hiring freeze, but currently has no plans to lay off employees.
It is unfortunate that higher education has taken a hit in this circumstance, but we must remember that this decision was surely not made lightly, and these moves were, of course, weighed heavily by all involved. We should acknowledge the positive fact that K-12 education will not be cut in a time when childhood education is one of the most important factors for an individual’s future success.
Additionally, our University issued that they are also making an effort to avoid placing the burden of these cuts upon students. The hiring freeze is not ideal, but it is a practical step for the University to take at this time.
We hope that funds at UMW are adjusted wisely, and that these cuts do not increase the already tremendous burden that tuition places on students. As national student debt reaches levels above $1 trillion, students truly cannot afford to see prices rise further than already planned. We urge the University to continue to take cautious steps in order to address this crisis logically and in a way that does not impact students unduly.