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West Virginia University approves academic program and faculty cuts amid budget shortfall

West Virginia University has given its final approval for substantial cuts to academic programs and faculty positions, concluding extensive debate among the university's community.

West Virginia University gave final approval Friday to wide-ranging cuts in academic programs and faculty positions, the culmination of a impassioned back and forth between the campus community, students and officials as the university addresses a $45 million budget shortfall.

The university Board of Governors voted to drop 28 of its majors, or about 8%, and cut 147 of the faculty positions, or 5.7%, on its Morgantown campus. Among the cuts are one-third of education department faculty and the entire world language department, although seven language teaching positions are being retained and students are being allowed to take some language courses as electives.

The vote in Morgantown came as the university has been weighed down financially by a 10% drop in enrollment since 2015, revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasing debt load for new building projects.

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The cuts are on top of those made in June, when the board approved $7 million in staff reductions, or around 132 positions, slashed 12 graduate and doctorate programs and approved a 3% tuition increase.

Dozens of speakers, including students and faculty, vehemently opposed the cuts during a public hearing Thursday before the board.

Earlier this month a faculty group approved separate, symbolic motions expressing no confidence in President E. Gordon Gee and calling for a freeze in the ongoing cuts, which the American Federation of Teachers called "draconian and catastrophic."

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