WVU parents ask questions about E. Gordon Gee's private jet costs

West Virginia University students head to class in Morgantown. University President E. Gordon Gee says the amount he spends on travel to raise money is well worth it, but some parents and students question the high price tag. (WCHS/WVAH)

West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee said the work that he does and the money he raises for his university far outweigh the more than $2 million in travel expenses he has incurred between 2014 and June of last year. The money comes from tuition and fees paid by parents and students of the school, and some of them are asking questions about the high price tag.

Tuition and fee costs for WVU students this year are $8,976 for in-state students, and more than $25,000 for out-of-state students.

Hallie And Phill Warnock's son Hayden is in his third year at WVU studying biology. They say tuition and fees have gone up every year he has been enrolled.

"I understand he's a very busy man, and he seems to be a good public face for WVU," Hallie Warnock said. "However, it's insulting when they continue to ask students and parents to pay more each year and it seems like WVU is not being fiscally responsible with the money that they already have."

Phill Warnock said he likes Gee, thinks he is a good guy and a good face for the university.

"I just wonder, you know, is that the best way to spend the money that we're giving him," Phill Warnock said.

In defense of his air travel on private jets, Gee said he has raised more than $1.2 billion for WVU and greatly improved the quality of the educational experience for students. Much of the money goes to the WVU Foundation, however, the foundation doesn't pay for the plane trips, tuition and fee money does.

"The people that are getting the $1.2 billion ought to be paying for the flights," Phill Warnock said.

Hallie Warnock said she believes if Gee is raising funds for the foundation "then the foundation should pay for the flights. It should be a wash. If you've raised that much money they should be able to easily cover your flights."

Despite the more than $2 million flights costs for three years starting in 2014, Gee said he will continue flying to do as much as he can for WVU.

We asked Del. Michael Folk, a frequent critic of Gee's air travel, what he thinks about that decision.

"I think it' s a poor decision. Very poor," Folk said.

Gee said WVU doesn't "build widgets. We don't build cars. We build lives. And it's very, very difficult on the value-added side, but I know this, this university is making a tremendous, tremendous difference in people’s lives and that is my responsibility. You know, at my age, time is flying so I'm gonna fly until I get my job done."

Eyewitness News reached out to William Wilmoth, a Wheeling attorney who serves as chair for the WVU Board of Governors. In relation to Gee's flights and their cost, Wilmoth said Gee is the "Energizer Bunny" and using the university's leased airplane is one more way for him to be several places in a day when he couldn't do that otherwise.

"It more than pays off in fund raising and friend raising," Wilmoth said.

Gee talks with Lead Eyewitness News iTeam reporter Kennie Bass about the cost of his private jet travel around the country in the first installation of this story below:

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