West Virginia University’s support for student scholarships has increased 13 percent in the past two fiscal years, helping to offset the impact of higher tuition necessitated in part by reductions of state support, the Board of Governors learned Friday (Oct. 31).
The figures were part of the report on the University’s performance during the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014.
“In general, we had a good year, especially considering the fact that we experienced a decline in state support,” Senior Associate Vice President for Finance Dan Durbin said. Total state support fell by nearly $20 million in the last two years as a result of permanent base budget reductions.
“Our performance was better than budget and exceeded last year,” Durbin said. “The University remains financially stable. We have a stable balance sheet and good liquidity,” he said, noting operating margins and cash on hand have improved even while long-term debt has increased.
Durbin noted that in the last fiscal year, WVU provided $102 million in institution-funded scholarships, compared to $90 million two years ago.
Durbin also pointed to an increase in income from grants and contracts, saying that an $8 million increase in private and corporate grants more than offset a $6 million reduction in revenue from governmental sources. Most of that increase was due to creation of the WVU Clinical and Pharmacological Research Center, established to conduct clinical trials of medications being developed for use in the United States and elsewhere.
“The University continues to invest in core areas of employees, students and facilities through increased expense activity and scholarship activity,” Durbin said.
He highlighted two “billion dollar” milestones: total revenues surpassed $1 billion for the third straight year and the University’s adjusted net assets topped $1 billion for the first time.
Durbin noted that while the final audit report is not yet ready, there should be no change from the figures discussed Friday. The final audit is expected to be available later in November.
President Gordon Gee noted that WVU is “a very buttoned up institution, and we should take pride in that.”
He also noted that, when healthcare operations are included, WVU has more than $3.5 billion in assets, putting it “in a very rarefied atmosphere.”
Additionally, the Board heard a report from the Textbook Affordability Committee, which noted that University textbook guidelines, and efforts by the WVU Bookstore, help keep the cost of textbooks down and that “students are saving more money as a result of used textbook sales and the WVU Bookstore rental program.”
Vice Provost Russell Dean said students saved almost $680,000 on textbooks during the spring 2014 semester, continuing a trend of increasing savings that can be attributed to the Textbook Affordability efforts, which include ensuring that professors select textbooks promptly and that new textbooks are only introduced when absolutely necessary, which helps with resales and rentals.
Also, Dean noted that all the proceeds from the WVU Bookstore, which last year was more than $1.6 million, are used for student scholarships.
Provost Joyce McConnell briefed the board on several academic issues, including Project 168, reflecting the number of hours in a week, which encourages students to take advantage of the wealth of experiences WVU offers outside of the classroom.
After accounting for class, studying, sleep and all other student activities, about 25 hours are left unaccounted for, she said.
“The question is what can we do with that 25 hours, and what can we do with the other hours to help them grow, not just in terms of their academics, but in terms of their personal development,” McConnell said.
McConnell said WVU and other higher education officials from around the state are working together with pre-K through 12 officials to ensure that the much talked about common core curriculum will adequately prepare students for a college education.
McConnell also told the Board about the positive impact on the University’s faculty and staff recruiting efforts that resulted from the state’s decision not to challenge a lawsuit opening the way for same-sex marriage in West Virginia, calling it “a wonderful watershed moment for the University.”
Gee used his report to address recent disturbances following the football team’s upset victory over then-No. 4 Baylor on Oct. 18, in which more than a dozen students were arrested or cited resulting in three expulsions so far.
Noting that on Saturday, WVU will again face a top-10 opponent in Morgantown, with additional attention on the University because of the presence of ESPN’s popular College GameDay, Gee said, “Let me say that we are fully equipped and prepared to handle any inappropriate behavior that may occur following the game.
“I have zero tolerance for actions like setting fires, destroying property, and throwing objects at other human beings,” he said. “Those were not Mountaineers who were engaging in this behavior, in addition to damaging the reputation of our state and our university. They were criminals. And those who act like criminals will be treated as such.”
Gee said he is determined to change the campus culture, and lifted up the efforts of two marketing students to create a social media campaign they called #RespectfulMountaineer to help do just that.
“In two days, the #RespectfulMountaineer hashtag was used more than 1,500 times and reached more than 500,000 people and 1.4 million timelines,” he said. “This platform was not created by my office or by the university, it was done by our students,” he said.
“So, at the end of the day, the number of true Mountaineers dwarfs the number of bad apples.”
He pointed to t-shirts students will wear Saturday and a full-page ad in the student newspaper signed by student-athletes and coaches as outgrowths of the positive respect message.
Gee then introduced three new leaders from the University’s Health Sciences operations: Dr. Greg Hand, founding dean of the School of Public Health; Dr. Sally Hodder, director of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute; and Dr. Albert Wright, president and CEO of West Virginia University Hospitals.
He said the three would help position WVU as the “nation’s land-grant of the future.”
In other business, the Board:
- Approved creation of a Master of Arts degree in music industry in the College of Creative Arts.
- Approved a Master of Science degree in biostatistics in the School of Public Health.
- Received a report on the reorganization of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design from five divisions into three schools. The current Division of Animal and Nutritional Resources and Division of Plant and Soil Sciences will become the School of Agriculture and Food; the Division of Forestry and Natural Resources and the Division of Resource Management will become the School of Natural Resources; and the Division of Design and Merchandising will join with Landscape Architecture and Agriculture and Extension Education fromResource Management to form the School of Design and Community Development.
The next Board meeting is in Morgantown on Dec. 19.
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