The West Virginia University Board of Governors Friday unanimously approved a new student housing master plan that will increase and modernize current accommodations on the Morgantown campus.

The board also approved a $15 million upgrade to the Personal Rapid Transit system to improve its reliability and help ensure its viability as a major transportation system.

“These two initiatives, which will put more housing within walking distance of classes, combined with improved reliability – and therefore use – of the PRT, will also aid in community efforts to improve transportation around Morgantown and cut down on energy use,” Vice President for Administration and Finance Narvel Weese said.

“The housing master plan provides housing to support the recruitment of the best and brightest students,” Weese told the board, noting that on-campus housing has not kept pace with enrollment growth and that the majority of it is more than 25 years old.

The changes “will ensure safe, affordable and quality housing is available for students,” said Ken Gray, vice president for student affairs.

Weese told the board that current housing also limits the University’s ability to accommodate graduate and professional students, veterans or international students. In addition, 73 percent of the space and 78 percent of the beds are in buildings constructed more than a quarter of a century ago.

The cost of implementing the changes will depend on eventual design work and market conditions at the time of construction, he added.

The plan is the result of a two-year process involving students and parents, faculty and administration. It meets student and parent demands and expectations for modern living space, supports the University’s 2020 Strategic Plan and will provide on-campus housing for a quarter of the projected full-time student enrollment in 2020, Weese said.

The plan also anticipates the private sector handling additional increases in demand from upperclassmen as enrollment continues to grow through increased retention of upper class students, expanding research and additional graduate students and employees, Weese said.

With some limited exceptions, all single, first-year students are required to live in University housing, as are transfer students with fewer than 29 credit hours.

The plan will add a total of 1,555 beds to University housing, including the anticipated elimination of some current housing in the WVU inventory: Medical Center Apartments in 2014 (164 beds), and Pierpont Apartments (495) and Fieldcrest Hall (210) in 2016.

The current plan is to add 979 beds in 2014, 558 in 2015 with the completed replacement of the College Park apartments and 1,112 in 2016. Also, beginning in 2016, the Towers residence halls on the Evansdale Campus will be under renovation, taking between 222 and 250 beds off line annually over the next six years.

In addition to adding capacity, the new facilities will also change the mix to provide more apartment- and family-style accommodations. The current mix is 81 percent in traditional residence halls; that will decrease to 71 percent. Apartment style will grow form 18 percent to 26 percent and family oriented from 1 percent to 3 percent.

As part of the continuing assessment of housing needs, Weese said, the University will develop a plan within three years that will modernize or replace existing housing by fiscal year 2035.

PRT Upgrades
The PRT, which carries some 14,500 passengers a day, was state-of-the-art when it opened as a demonstration project in 1975. Over the years it has become an essential transportation tool for students, employees, visitors to campus and the residents of Morgantown but the ability to find parts to maintain the system has become extremely difficult, and operational costs have skyrocketed, all of which has affected reliability.

Upgrading the propulsion system is one of two components of Phase One of a PRT Modernization Plan; the other is redesign and replacement of the on-board vehicle computer system, which could be completed by the end of next year. This alone will significantly improve performance.

Next, WVU will work with Bombardier to redesign and replace the propulsion units.

The improved propulsion systems should be in place by the end of next year as well, and will enable more cars to be available at any one time, reducing wait and downtime.

The funding will come from Federal Transit Administration grants as well as a WVU Transportation fund, which includes money dedicated to PRT upgrades.

President’s Report
In his report to the BOG, President Jim Clements noted that enrollment for this academic year is up, although final numbers aren’t yet available.

“One trend that is especially encouraging is a solid increase in minority and international students,” he said.

But he also raised the issue of pending state budget cuts.

“State finances are projected to tighten, and as a result – we have been asked to plan for a 7.5 percent budget cut,” he said. “This may mean about a $12 million cut to us. It is too early to know what the budget will look like – but we will keep you posted.”

Clements also welcomed Student Government Association President Zach Redding to his first official meeting. He praised Redding for his leadership in developing a light-hearted but serious video by and for students about ceasing celebratory street fires and couch burning.

“The biggest impact is peer to peer communication,” Clements said, “and this effort may save a life or prevent a serious injury or save a student from expulsion.”

In addition to Redding, Board Members Robert Griffith, Raymond J. Lane and J. Robert Rogers were sworn in to second terms on the board. Charles Vest has been previously sworn in to a second term.

Textbook Affordability
The Board also heard from the Textbook Affordability Committee, which is required to report annually the efforts and progress on keeping textbooks within a student’s financial reach.

The committee was formed in the past year, under the leadership of Senior Associate Provost Russell Dean, who told the board the committee had worked on textbook selection guidelines and procedures and educated faculty and other campus constituents about the issues involved.

The guidelines require decisions about course materials to be made in a timely fashion, and the information about the selections to be made public. Textbooks should also used for a reasonable period of time. In addition, customized textbooks should not be adopted unless the customization “provides exceptional educational quality.”

Dean noted that textbook rentals from the University’s bookstore increased from 3 percent in spring of 2011 to 10 percent in spring of 2012. Used textbook purchases fell from 15 percent to 8 percent in the same time period.

The committee will continue to work on the reduction of use of customized textbooks in the coming year, and work on improving awareness of the issues.

Other business
In other business, the board:

  • Received a preliminary report on the University’s unaudited financial statements, showing better-than-projected revenues, largely due to some extraordinary occurrences, including contract resolutions and a $71 million in-kind software gift.
  • Approved the conveyance for $1.84 million of 1.95 acres of land near the intersection of Mileground Road and State Highway 705 to the West Virginia Department of Transportation, which will construct a traffic circle at the location.
  • Approved a $2.6 million expansion of the weight room at the Puskar Center. The project will add 1,800 square feet of weight training space. It will be funded through private donations, half of which have already been pledged.
  • Approved the previously announced $5.34 million purchase of about 25 acres in the area of Falling Run Road. The agreement with the city of Morgantown and the federal bankruptcy trustee and First United Bank will change the face of the Downtown Campus – revitalizing blighted areas and adding a new gateway to Morgantown.
  • Received the annual report from the WVU Foundation. Foundation president and CEO Wayne King said donors contributed a record $173.9 million in cash and in-kind gifts, including a single in-kind software donation from Siemens PLM Software valued at $71.2 million. Not including the large in-kind gift, the remaining $102.7 million donated in FY12 also is a record, topping last year’s $96.3 million. King also noted that the endowment investment pool was flat, returning a negative 0.1 percent. However he noted that still was above average compared to what other universtiy foundations are experiencing. And he noted that as of June 30, the Foundation has received $558 million, or 74 percent of the $750 million goal, for A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16 in Morgantown.



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