West Virginia University May Cut 32 Majors, 7% of Faculty

West Virginia University put 32 majors on the chopping block as the school faces a $45 million budget shortfall.
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Published on August 14, 2023
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  • West Virginia University officials proposed cutting 12 undergraduate majors and 20 graduate-level majors as the school faces a $45 million budget shortfall.
  • That would mean a 7% reduction in faculty at the school's Morgantown campus.
  • The cuts would affect several hundred students, accounting for less than 2% of the school's enrollment.
  • The plan also calls for dissolving the school's world languages department.

West Virginia University officials recommended that the school cut 32 majors as it faces a major budget deficit, including dissolving its entire world languages department.

The 32 majors proposed to be discontinued in recommendations from the Office of the Provost include 12 undergraduate majors and 20 graduate-level majors, according to a press release last week. Those proposed cuts would affect 147 undergraduate students and 287 graduate students based on fall 2023 enrollment figures, according to the release, accounting for less than 2% of the university's enrollment.

The proposed cuts to faculty would go deeper, with 169 reductions — or 7% of the university's faculty — in Morgantown.

Part of those cuts include West Virginia University's entire world languages department. Officials cited low and declining enrollment in foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics across higher education and at the university in deciding to cut the program. The school is also reviewing a plan to eliminate its language requirement for all majors, according to the release.

The cuts come as the university faces major fiscal headwinds. West Virginia University has an estimated $45 million budget deficit for the 2024 fiscal year, according to a May release.

"While we view these preliminary recommendations for reductions and discontinuations as necessary, we are keenly aware of the people they will affect," West Virginia President Gordon Gee said in the release. "We do not take that lightly. These faculty are our colleagues, our neighbors and our friends. These decisions are difficult to make."

Gee, who has led the school since 2014, recently announced plans to step down as the school's president after his contract ends in 2025. The West Virginia University Board of Governors extended Gee's contract to 2025 at a late July meeting, with chair Taunja Willis-Miller noting that the school is in a "state of transformation."

"We believe he deserves additional time to see that through," Willis-Miller said in a release. "I understand there is criticism of the transformation actions being taken, but as a board, we must focus on the larger vision and future of the University. We do not have to agree, but we do need to move forward."

The proposed cuts and Gee's planned departure are only the latest major shakeups at West Virginia University.

School officials announced in June that the university's College of Creative Arts and Reed College of Media would merge into a single college. Gee said at the time that the merged college "will serve as a hub of creative activity and experiential learning."

Much of West Virginia University's budget shortfall can be blamed on slashed state funding, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. The think tank noted in June that, if lawmakers kept higher education funding levels on par with what they were a decade ago, the school would have an additional $37.6 million in state funding for the 2024 fiscal year — covering the vast majority of its $45 million shortfall.

"While students and families have long felt the impacts on tuition of reduced public investments in higher education, federal pandemic relief temporarily cushioned colleges and universities from some of the broader institutional impacts," Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, wrote in June. "As those federal funds are drying up, state funding austerity is fully in view."

State funding for higher education decreased by 24% between the 2013 and 2024 fiscal years in West Virginia, to the tune of $146.2 million when adjusting for inflation, Allen wrote.

Allen added that "far fewer of these measures would be necessary if state funding for colleges and universities had simply been maintained at the same levels as a decade ago."