The state Higher Education Policy Commission on Friday (Feb. 3) approved the 2004-05 update to West Virginia University’s compact, citing 11 positive indicators in its decision, including increasing enrollment and improving retention rates. The only University compactchallengeas the Commission described itis to increase its graduation rate.

Compacts focus on essential areas that effectively indicate institutional commitment to six statewide goals: preparation, participation, affordability, competitive workforce, economic development and accountability. First adopted in 2001-02, the compacts are updated annually by each institution and submitted to HEPC . The commission uses the compacts to determine the magnitude of annual tuition and fee increases colleges and universities may levy.

In approving WVU ’s compact, HEPC noted the University meets the compact goals and has exceeded institutional six-year goals in many areas.

Among the positive indicators listed:

  • Headcount enrollment (25,514) increased by 4.2 percent and exceeds the institutional goal of 25,400
  • The retention rate remained constant at 81 percent and is above the national average and state goal of 74 percent. The rate also exceeds the institutional goal of 80 percent.
  • External funding ($151 million) increased 7.9 percent and exceeds the institutional goal of $150 million
  • The percentage of faculty holding terminal degrees remained at 94 percent, which is well above the state goal of 75 percent.
  • Baccalaureate (3,155) and total degree (5,150) production increased and is near institutional goals of 3,400 and 5,260 respectively.
  • WVU received an unqualified audit opinion on the annual financial audit with no material comments in auditor management letter.

WVU ’s graduation rate for 2004-05 decreased from 56 percent to 53 percent and is below the state goal of 60 percent. HEPC said asignificant challengefor WVU is to increase its graduation rate.

A recommendation to disapprove the institutional compact for WVU Institute of Technology was table width=100%d by HEPC after commissioners heard a report from Tech President Charles Bayless on proposed future plans for the college.

Bayless outlined the proposal first announced by Gov. Manchin last month in which Tech’s engineering program would move to donated Dow facilities in South Charleston and become a division of WVU ’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

Commissioner Tom Jones praised the move and encouraged Bayless to move ahead with the proposal, which will likely take legislative action.

Commissioners say they’ll wait to see what happens with the proposal in the Legislature before voting on Tech’s compact update.

In other action Friday, HEPC :

  • Heard a report from the search committee looking for a new chancellor. The committee expects to interview a preliminary group of candidates to succeed former Chancellor J. Michael Mullen in early March. Mullen stepped down last year, and Bruce Flack has been serving as interim chancellor until a permanent replacement can be found.
  • Approved three new degrees at Fairmont State University, including a master’s in business administration and bachelor’s of science degrees in accounting and information systems.
  • Approved a new bachelor’s of arts degree in Spanish and Spanish education certification at Shepherd University .
  • Approved a consolidated audit report for fiscal year 2005 for all public colleges and universities in the state. The auditing form of Deloitte&Touche told HEPC it found no concerns at any of the institutions.
  • Heard a report from the organizer of a special two-day conference being planned April 24-25 in Charleston on internationalizing higher education in West Virginia.

The next regular meeting of the state Higher Education Policy Commission is scheduled for April.