West Virginia University’s Board of Governors took several actions Friday (May 1) to ensure the continued high quality of education at the University, including “a fundamental resetting of the institution” by endorsing a series of student success initiatives and launching a $50 million student scholarship fundraising campaign.

The campaign, known as “Dream First,” will raise $50 million in scholarships for both in- and out-of-state students. The effort is being launched in response to a “difficult, but necessary” increase in tuition – $336 a semester for resident undergraduate students and $504 a semester for non-resident undergraduates.

The University is also increasing its need-based aid by $2.25 million to help students and their families with educational costs.

“West Virginia University remains extremely cognizant of our students and their families as they face the financial aspects of obtaining a college education – and we want to do right by them,” President Gordon Gee said. “At the same time, there is a level of quality that students and families expect when they come to West Virginia University for an education. We will never sacrifice the quality of our University. In fact, we must continue to invest in the very institution that will work hard to ensure a student’s success – both while on campus and in his or her future career.

“That is our mission – to provide an affordable, accessible and quality education to every student who desires to come to West Virginia University. That is the polar star by which we must guide ourselves every day,” Gee said.

Investing in West Virginia University
Provost Joyce McConnell presented a Student Success Initiative geared toward offering a more personalized four-year approach to students’ academic, personal and professional development.

The initiatives are in partnership with the Division of Student Life and will include all facets of the student experience, including a more consistent and unified approach to advising; investments in additional team-building and leadership programs like Adventure West Virginia; the expansion of living-learning communities in various areas of exploration; and a one-stop shop at Evansdale Crossing for student services, among other programming and improvements.

In addition, the University will be naming a dean of completion who will bring together all these campus projects and programs known as Project 168. It’s about customizing a successful pathway to graduation by focusing on key goals and achievements in each of the student’s four years – from academic opportunities such as study abroad to wellness to financial literacy to career exploration, McConnell said.

“The implementation of a unified and personal approach across campus will result in increased coordination and ensures that every student’s academic needs are being met, thus improving retention and graduation rates. Ultimately, if we are able to assist our students in completing their degree in four years, we will also address some of the financial strains placed on families.”

Retaining and rewarding WVU’s faculty and staff is also crucial, McConnell said. “We need to encourage and reward interdisciplinary teaching and research, and we need to provide more market competitive salaries for all staff and faculty – tenure and non-tenure track alike.”

$50 million for student scholarships
In announcing the “Dream First” campaign, President Gee said WVU and the WVU Foundation will partner on a $50 million student scholarship fundraising campaign to urge alumni and friends to support students as they “dream big” and pursue their passions.

“It is crucial that we inspire our students to dream,” Gee said. “They are the future of this state – of this nation. And I want every student who has a passion, a drive to succeed – to be able to pursue that dream here at West Virginia University.

Gee said he fully understands that tuition increases are difficult decisions to make, but that the consequences of not doing so could have a negative effect on the quality college experience that the University offers.

“By partnering with our alumni and friends to support our students, we are not only demonstrating our commitment to each of them, but also to the mission and values we have as a land-grant, research institution in this state,” he said.

Gee said WVU is still “a great bargain,” especially when compared to regional and Big 12 peers and other in-state colleges and universities, noting that WVU’s in-state tuition is the lowest of the 10 universities in the Big 12.

“Ultimately,” Gee said, “our goals are to increase graduation rates, improve the overall student experience, and better prepare students for their futures — all while working to decrease student and parent debt.”

While acknowledging that raising tuition is his least favorite task as a university president, Gee said, “I don’t want to get lost in percentages or dollar amounts, I want to get lost in the dream.”

He said the Board’s actions Friday, taken as a whole, represent “a fundamental resetting of the institution in many ways. This is not about another year; this is about really trying to rethink the nature of this institution.”

Planning for the future
Vice President for Administration and Finance Narvel Weese said supporting the University’s strategic goals for student success and ensuring competitive salaries for faculty and staff are priorities in the coming year’s budget.

Proposed tuition increases of $336 a semester, or $672 per year for resident undergraduate students (9.6 percent), and $504 a semester, or $1,008 per year for non-resident undergraduates (4.94 percent), were approved by the Board, with one dissenting vote by the student representative.

The tuition increase for resident students is pending review and approval by the Higher Education Policy Commission.

Increases for in-state and out-of-state graduate and health sciences students also will increase by similar dollar amounts. However, special college fees that have been assessed in the past will not increase.

The Board approved the tuition rates at WVU Tech and Potomac State Friday to allow students and parents as much time as possible to make adjustments in their financial planning. The final budget will be on the Board’s June agenda, and also will include an infusion of $2.25 million in need-based aid to help offset tuition increases, Weese noted.

The budget also incorporates funds for a new initiative for incoming freshmen that will result in a $750 bonus for those who complete their degree program in four years.

The budget parameters also allow for a 3 percent funding pool to be used for staff pay increases. Employees have not received raises the past two years, other than a $504 increase from the governor and Legislature in 2015.

Board reports
Rick Kraich, vice president for investments at the WVU Foundation, reported that Foundation-managed investment assets totaled $1.3 billion as of Dec. 31, including the long-term investment pool which saw a return of 7.6 percent for the calendar year 2014. The value of the long-term investment pool stood at $517 million as of December, he added. The Foundation acts as an investment agent for WVU, WVU Hospitals and WVU Research Corp.

Providing his final report to the Board, Student Government Association President Chris Nyden said his administration expanded community cleanups and strengthened town-gown relations, made strides in offering healthier dining options, championed the live safe app for student safety and advocated for minimizing cuts to higher education, among other initiatives.

Consent agenda
The Board also voted to:

  • Approve a new master of science degree in forensic and fraud examination to meet the needs of this emerging industry;
  • Approve a new doctor of philosophy degree in clinical and translational science to respond to fundamental changes taking place in biomedical science research and education;
  • Terminate the master of data science degree for non-interest;
  • Authorize the necessary steps to move toward implementing a 40-hour work week by October 2015, with approval of the Higher Education Policy Commission
  • Approve the Health Sciences Center Simulation Center project at a cost of $3.4 million from a private gift;
  • Approve upgrades to floors 7-9 at the Engineering Sciences Building to reduce student traffic to the upper floors by moving teaching labs to the ground level and offices to the tower;
  • Post a notice of a proposed rule change to Policy 56, drug and alcohol testing for Federal Transit Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-covered positions to be consistent with federal regulations;
  • Adopt amendments to the WVU BOG’s powers, duties and operating procedures to reflect statutory and other administrative changes;
  • Approve County Extension committee appointments.

Expanding on the 40-hour workweek following the meeting, Weese said it will result in an average 6.67 percent earnings increase for the affected employees – some 1,900 classified staff. Employee salaries will be “much more competitive” come October, he added, and absolutely will not result in any layoffs. Instead, savings will be achieved through vacancies and retirements, he said.

Other business
The following BOG members were appointed to the nominating committee: James R. Rogers as chair, Dixie Martinelli, Robert Griffith and William Nutting, members.

New officers will be elected at the next regular meeting of the Board June 5 at Glade Springs, near Beckley.



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