West Liberty Would Get $1M Under Blue Ribbon Commission’s New Plan

CHARLESTON — A subcommittee of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Four Year Higher Education has developed a funding plan to help the state’s smaller colleges and universities.

If approved, West Liberty University would get more than $1 million for its share, the fourth-highest in the state.

The Finance Subcommittee met via conference call Monday afternoon to discuss a plan that would spread out $10 million between seven colleges and universities.

If the proposal is approved by the full commission and signed by the governor, $10 million would come from the governor’s contingency fund for the remainder of the 2018-19 fiscal year. The Legislature would need to budget $10 million when they approve the 2019-20 fiscal year budget during the 2019 legislative session.

The money would be distributed to each of the seven schools based on a weighted number of full-time in-state students.

Out of the $10 million being proposed, Glenville State University would receive $40,000; Concord University would receive about $1.63 million; West Virginia State University would receive $860,000; WLU would receive about $1.02 million; Bluefield State University would receive $553,000; Shepherd University would receive $2.5 million; and Fairmont State University would receive more than $3.4 million.

Dr. Mirta Martin, president of Fairmont State University, said that the proposal had the support of all the colleges and universities except Glenville State University.

“On behalf of the senior institutions, we would like to make a statement or a recommendation to the finance subcommittee, and that is nine of the 10 senior institutions in West Virginia stand together in solidarity to endorse this recalibration formula.”

Marshall University, West Virginia University, as well as WVU’s two additional schools (WVU Institute of Technology and Potomac State College) would seek no additional funding for the remainder of this fiscal year and next fiscal year.

“WVU, WVU Tech and Marshall have been very kind in stating that they would not seek additional funding at this time,” Martin said.

Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert, a co-chairman for the commission and a member of the subcommittee, originally proposed the idea of increasing funding for the smaller state colleges and universities by $10 million. Under his original proposal, the $10 million would be allocated based on one of the funding models proposed by the Higher Education Policy Commission and would require the schools to document how they plan to use the funding increases.

Gov. Jim Justice created the Blue Ribbon Commission on June 28 to look at ways to create efficiencies in the state’s 11 colleges and universities. The commission is divided into two more subcommittees. The Structure and Organizational Subcommittee is considering junking the HEPC in favor of a new service-based institution and giving more autonomy to the boards of governors at the individual schools. The Collaboration Subcommittee is looking at how the state’s colleges and universities can work together and share resources.

The commission has come under scrutiny and criticism for the tactics of E. Gordon Gee, the president of West Virginia University and the commission’s presiding officer. The plurality of commission members are current or former members of the WVU Board of Governors.

Gee has also used his position on the commission to advocate for the elimination of the HEPC, tasked by the Legislature to create performance-based funding models that will help small universities, but take more state funding from WVU and affiliated schools. Over the summer, a shake-up at the HEPC caused the appointment of Carolyn Long, president of the WVU Institute of Technology, as interim chancellor against the advice of the HEPC’s legal counsel who promptly resigned after the vote.

The full Blue Ribbon Commission will meet by teleconference at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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