The state Higher Education Policy Commission Wednesday (Sept. 14) reassigned outgoing Chancellor J. Michael Mullen to the role of chancellor emeritus and appointed Bruce Flack as interim chancellor, effective Oct. 1.

The reorganization follows last months announcement by Mullen that he plans to retire Jan. 31, 2006, after serving in the position for nearly five years. Mullen will stay on the state payroll for the next four months while completing two special projects for the commission.

Flack is currently interim vice chancellor of state colleges and director of academic affairs for HEPC . He has worked for the states higher education board for 16 years.

Also Wednesday, HEPC appointed a committee to oversee the search for a permanent replacement for Mullen. That committee will consist of all HEPC members who wish to serve. One of the committees initial decisions, yet to be made, will be to determine whether to hire a search firm to assist with the process.

In other business, HEPC authorized special tuition and fee rates for those Gulf Coast residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina who may want to attend college in West Virginia.

The commission passed a resolution approving special tuition and fee rates that have already or will be adopted by local governing boards.

The resolution also encourages all public colleges and universities in the state to assist displaced Katrina victims by granting them in-state status for tuition and fees, or by adopting a special tuition and fee rate for those persons currently paying lower than the current out-of-state rate.

At WVU , application and late administration fees are already being waived for students in the storm-affected areas. At least seven displaced students from Gulf Coast colleges have been admitted.

The University is working with students on a case-by-case basis,said Brenda Thompson, assistant vice president of enrollment management.We want them to know they have options.

WVU also is offering free online courses for students displaced by Katrina. See more information.

Commissioners heard reports on the performance of high school students enrolled in public colleges and universities for fall 2004; graduation rates for 2004-05; and retention and earnings of 2002-03 graduates in 2004.

As college freshmen, the high school class of 2004 completed more credits per semester, maintained a higher grade point average and enrolled in fewer remedial courses than in previous years, according to the reports.

The number of graduates in 2004-05 increased by almost 1,000 degrees over last year, and three of four students who completed a degree in West Virginia in 2002-03 chose to remain in the state by either securing employment or continuing in their postsecondary pursuits.

HEPC also approved an operating and capital budget improvement package request for fiscal year 2007.

The request seeks more than $2.2 million in base budget adjustments for both two- and four-year institutions, including nearly $749,000 for WVU .

Additionally, the improvement package request calls for more student financial aid, including $15 million for PROMISE , $3 million for the Higher Education Grant Program and $2 million for HEAPS .

The commission also authorized staff to issue a request for proposals to retain an investment banking firm and a bond counsel for the purpose of issuing a 2005 system-wide bond for capital projects.

The next HEPC meeting is set for Oct. 7.