Despite growth in enrollment and gains in externally funded research and other areas, West Virginia University is at the”tipping point,” WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. told the institutions governing board Friday (Sept. 5) in making the case to hold the line on future higher education budget cuts.

The Board of Governors unanimously adopted aresolutionendorsing Hardestys public policy stance and urged all state policy makers and concerned citizens to use their best efforts to avoid such re-allocations.(click here to read resolution)

Chairman Hank Barnette said”any additional re-allocations of state appropriations away from higher education and WVU and its regional campuses will work to the detriment of the state and its citizens by undermining opportunities for economic recovery, limiting access to higher education, diminishing services to the state performed by the institution, and denying future generations of West Virginians a fair opportunity for obtaining a state-supported higher education at a reasonable cost.”

In his remarks, Hardesty said,”To the extent tuition growth cannot cover fixed and marginal costs, the Universitys mission is put in jeopardy. Limits exist as to how high tuition can go before an institution curtails access.

“The University is also limited as to how much other revenue can be raised when the base upon which those dollars are leveraged begins to shrink. This is the concern that brings West Virginia University near the tipping point. When the base appropriation shrinks, other areas of funding are also in danger of shrinking,”he added.

WVU s main Morgantown campus alone is facing a $20 million base budget cut in fiscal year 2004$22 million when factoring in WVU s regional campuses. Thats on top of $6 million in added costs for health and insurance premiums and a mid-year reduction in 2003, Hardesty told his 15-member board.

This comes at a time when WVU s importance to higher education as a growth engine, flagship educational center, and research and service enterprise has never been greater, he noted.

Every dollar invested in WVU by the state, he said, turns into $10 in the economy through the dollars WVU and its hospital affiliate leverage and spend. An additional 1,000 full-time students at WVU , for example, injects $18 million into the economy and an additional $1 million in the states tax base.

“It follows then, that for every dollar not invested in WVU , approximately $10 is lost to West Virginias economy,”he said.”In addition to the pure economics, the level of education, service and research that WVU has the capacity to perform is likewise hampered.”

“In the wake of a $22 million base budget cut in 2004, an immediate crisis arises in the possibility for another reduction in 2005,”Hardesty added.”WVU joins with the other public institutions in adopting the higher education unity agenda, which is simply this: No cuts in this years higher education funding.”

In making his case, Hardesty pointed to several areas where”strategic investments”have enabled WVU to grow, despite budget cuts, including:

  • WVU s enrollment has increased in size and quality over the years, with some 2,570 more students enrolled this year than in 1995the equivalent size of an entire student body at other institutionswith higher ACT and SAT scores.
  • Twenty-five degree programs are offered entirely off-campus and 500 students alone are selecting the new forensic identification and biometric degree programs.
  • External funding for WVU research has generated some $820 million since 1994, and extension and health sciences programs serve some 132,400 citizens annually throughout West Virginia.
  • Adding campus facilities, laboratories, housing, faculty and support services, and increasing research collaborations and business partnerships.

“State appropriations have simply not kept pace with WVU s growth,”Hardesty said,”and, in fact, WVU s annual appropriations rate has lagged behind that of all other public higher education institutions in West Virginia.”

From 1996 to present, Hardesty said higher educations share of the total state budget declined by 8.5 percent. WVU s share of the state budget declined at double that ratea 17.8 percent drop.

Further, between 1996 and 2002, WVU s state appropriations grew at an annual rate of 3.7 percent while appropriations at other West Virginia public institutions grew 6.6 percent. In total, WVU s state appropriations grew 19.7 percent while the others grew 30.2 percent, translating to a $94 million loss for WVU s main campus alone.

Two other issues compound the disparities in state allocations, he addedpeer funding and reallocation of capital bond projects. WVU lost nearly $25 million over the past 10 years in disproportional allocation of bond proceeds, meaning WVU has funded building projects on other campuses around West Virginia, he noted.

He summed up the situation by recalling a New York Times column that read:”Unless the country renews its commitment to public higher education, the universities will find their faculties decimated and their degrees devalued.The states will learn that important institutions are easy to destroy and devilishly difficult to rebuild.”

p. BOG Action

At the meeting, the board approved requiring applicants to report their scores on the new writing components of the ACT and SAT entrance exams beginning in fall 2006.

The new admissions requirement acknowledges the importance WVU places on strong writing skills as a predictor of college success, said Associate Provost Rosemary Haggett.”Writing is critical at the elementary age all the way through college,”she said.

The board also approved two facilities upgradesdesign approval for an addition and renovation of the Health Sciences Library, or Learning Center, and renovation of the Mountainlair Plaza and parking structure.

The design for the $13.9 million Learning Center includes classroom space and other improvements, and is part of the health sciences master plan, approved by the board in February 2002 and the Higher Education Policy Commission in March 2002. Funds will come from a U.S. Department of Energy grant and a federal grant through the WVU Research Corp. Completion is set for September 2006.

The $7.7 million Mountainlair improvement project will provide structural repairs to the 35-year-old parking garage from parking auxiliary funds, and improvements to the plaza through a bond project. Estimated completion date is August 2005.

Provost Gerald Lang announced establishment of two new task forces: a steering committee that will oversee Potomac State Colleges transition from a regional campus to a fully integrated division of WVU by July 1, 2005, and a Post Baccalaureate Placement Task Force to raise campus awareness of and strategies for enhancing job placement and further education opportunities.

In other business, the board:

  • honored outgoing board members Thomas Potter and Ted Mattern and swore in new members Russell Isaacs and Michael Vetere. Doug Leech was elected vice chairman, replacing Potter.
  • approved an associates degree in computer science at the WVU Institute of Technology Community and Technical College to complement an existing bachelors degree
  • adopted Policy 12defining the role of part-time and other adjunct facultyto comply with newly enacted legislation (HB 2224):
  • adopted Policy 13part-time classified employeesto comply with HB 224 and put the rule out for a second comment period
  • approved text changes in Policy 14reduced tuition and fees for state residents at least 65 years of age; Policy 15student academic rights; Policy 16use of institutional facilities; Policy 17ethics; and Policy 18alcoholic beverages on campus, in accordance with a review of all higher education policies

The BOG s next meeting is set for Oct. 3 in Morgantown.