West Virginia University is financially sound, as its investments have performed well despite a difficult economy. In addition, lower interest rates have enabled the University to refinance several notes, freeing up money for other improvements and operations, the Board of Governors learned Friday at its first meeting of 2013.
Despite the performance, Vice President for Administration and Finance Narvel Weese said the University is still evaluating how it will absorb a $13.3 million cut in state expenditures for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
“Certainly the University is very concerned about this pending budget reduction and recognizes that a budget cut at this level would impact the University’s delivery of quality services to our students and the residents of West Virginia,” Weese said. “With this in mind, the University is actively seeking ways to navigate through these problems and continues to engage legislative leaders and state officials in meaningful dialogue to mitigate the financial budget loss and to explore ways the state might help the University operate more flexibly and efficiently in these challenging financial times.
“While the University is mindful that the state’s economy is not performing at a level needed to support the current level of budget expenditures, we are very optimistic that state leadership will work with the University to find creative solutions, which allow the University to grow and succeed into the next decade.”
The board had previously approved the issuance of $210.5 million in bonds, with the proceeds to pay off an earlier bond sale, and generate new funds. Weese reported that the new bond issue on Jan. 29 enabled the University to save $17.5 million in interest payments. Additionally, the sale netted $15 million for improvements in the PRT, $14.5 million for the previous acquisition of property for the University Place development in Sunnyside and financed a part of the construction of the Animal Facility Annex.
A separate refinancing of Health Sciences Center notes from 2005 also freed up $1.4 million annually for HSC operations.
Additionally, Weese noted that bids received for the previously announced construction of new buildings for the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences and Student Health are $4.9 million lower than anticipated.
Separately, Rick Kraich, vice president for investments at the WVU Foundation, reported Foundation investment assets totaled nearly $1.1 billion as of Dec. 31, 2012. That includes the long-term investment pool which saw a return of 10.5 percent for the calendar year 2012. The value of the endowment investment pool stood at $444 million as of December, Kraich added. The Foundation acts as an investment agent for WVU and WVU Hospitals.
In addition to the financial summation, the BOG heard a report on the activities of the Student Government Association and a presentation from Adventure WV, an outdoor experience program of the Office of Student Affairs.
Student Government Association
SGA President Zach Redding, a BOG member by virtue of his office, outlined some of the Association’s achievements this past year:
• Initiatives to increase student awareness and involvement.
• Working with Dining Services to create more flexible meal plans.
• Raising more than $30,000 for the United Way through “Gold Rush” shirt sales.
• Partnering with the Greek community to help clean up Morgantown.
• Sponsoring Sustainability Day and Sustainability Week in cooperation with the Office of Sustainability.
• Initiating a voter registration drive and a mobile “rock the vote” website.
• Increasing budgets for student organizations.
• Coordinating SGAs of the Big 12 Athletic Conference on federal lobbying for student issues. He noted that WVU will host the Big 12 SGA conference in 2015.
Redding also outlined challenges to the University from the student perspective, including adapting to social and cultural movements, evolving its use of social media and modernizing classes and classrooms, and expanding student space (such as the Mountainlair) to accommodate WVU’s growing student population.
Describing Adventure WV to the board, Director Greg Corio said the nationally recognized outdoor education program “strives to foster personal growth, leadership development, social responsibility and student success through adventure-based and experiential education programming.”
It’s the third largest program of its kind in the country, behind Ivy League schools Dartmouth and Princeton, and is targeted for freshmen as well as student veterans, he added.
The retention rate of students who participate in Adventure WV is higher than the norm – 87.2 percent vs. 79.9 percent, Corio said. He also noted that WVU is the only university with a licensed zipline/platform canopy tour, which will be ready this spring in advance of the opening of a Boy Scout enrichment camp in southern West Virginia. Partnering with K-12 on STEM education is another goal of the new outdoor education course, Corio said.
In other business:
• The board received an update on University College, set to launch July 1 to provide structured and coordinated academic services to undergraduate students and provide an academic home for pre-majors and general studies and non-traditional students.
• They also approved posting for comment revisions of three policies governing student rights and responsibilities, academic rights and the student disciplinary process. The revisions are part of the University’s ongoing efforts to insure its student conduct and academic rights and responsibilities processes are efficient and reflect the current culture and structure of the University and its divisional campuses. A copy of the current policy is posted at: http://bog.wvu.edu/ for an initial 30-day comment period.
• The panel also approved a new degree program – a master’s in periodontics – to fill a void in that field in West Virginia.
The next regular BOG meeting is set for April 11-12 in Morgantown.
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