Too Many Colleges in West Virginia?

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Like many, many other states West Virginia is trying to save money running its state university system. Earlier the College Guide reported that West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin wanted to freeze tuition at public colleges. Another way to cut costs might be just to close some of them. The Charleston Daily Mail reports that:

Talk of closing colleges has been going on for years but was recently reignited by a Legislative Auditor’s report on the higher education system.

The report found, when compared to other states, West Virginia maintains a relatively high number of four-year colleges and universities. The report, while it questioned if the state has the population to justify all of its 11 institutions, did not suggest closing any college.

It may seem peculiar to suggest that a state where only 17 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree maintains too many colleges but, according to the report: “The population density within a 25 mile radius of each baccalaureate institution does not support the number of institutions and both baccalaureate and community colleges are competing for the same students.”

And yet, oddly, West Virginia still has the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment in the United States of America. West Virginia may be a low-population state, but it’s also a very mountainous state. In the days before the state highway system there was actually a geographical reason for numerous colleges.

But Brian Noland, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, said that closing colleges wouldn’t really save the state much money. He said that shutting even one college would just force other colleges to build more to accommodate new students. Noland does not appear to have cited any numbers to support his contention.

Both Nevada and Mississippi have considered eliminating several state colleges to save money.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer