The budget calls for a 5 percent tuition increase, which will heavily support student services, retention and growth readiness. The increase will go into effect for fall 2016.
“Increasing tuition is never a popular decision, but it is necessary in maintaining the momentum we have gained as the state’s flagship, land-grant institution,” said President Gordon Gee. “We provide an open door to the American Dream, and we must never lose sight of that.
“WVU is a catalyst for enhancing education, health care and economic prosperity in the state of West Virginia,” he continued. “People expect exceptional quality from West Virginia University and we will always strive to meet that expectation.”
The University received a $5.4 million reduction in state support this year. That accounts for a nearly $30 million reduction over the last three years. The impact of these reductions is being managed by 12 transformation teams focused on reimagining how the University functions as a means to recover savings. These teams will identify at least $45 million in cost savings and revenue generation over the next five years.
Other budget challenges outlined by Weese include enrollment pressures, from competition to pricing. To withstand these financial challenges, Weese said the University must preserve its cash position, maintain its bond ratings and plan for future growth through enrollment, research and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Weese also reported that the University’s existing revenue bonds recently earned an “A” rating and “stable” outlook from Standard and Poor’s. The report included assessment of the University’s enterprise profile as “very strong” due to its flagship, land-grant status, R1 classification and programmatic diversity. It also concluded that WVU’s financial profile was “strong” and cited its large operating revenue base, diverse revenue streams and adequate cash and investments position relative to debt.
In his remarks to the board, Gee expressed gratitude that West Virginia leaders recently agreed on a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Signage of the state budget bill averted a government shutdown on July 1, which would have affected WVU. That plan includes a 65-cent tobacco tax increase that is expected to generate $98 million toward a $270 million budget gap.
An extra $15 million in funding for the Public Employees Insurance Agency, a portion of which will reduce expected cost increases for retirees.
“I am grateful to our leaders for making the compromises necessary to avoid a government shutdown, which would have been a disaster for the state,” Gee said. “However, West Virginia is likely to face similar difficulties next year and in subsequent years. At West Virginia University, we will continue to transform the way we conduct business in order to lead our institution securely into the future.”
That future will be in good hands based on the increasing talent pool of incoming students. First-time freshman applications are up 30.5 percent and the number of admitted students has increased by 25 percent from 2015, Gee told the board.
Those students’ academic quality has increased, as well, he said. The average ACT score of an incoming freshman is 24, compared to the national average of 21. Meanwhile, SAT scores of incoming freshmen averaged 1043, compared to the national average of 1006.
Provost Joyce McConnell expanded on student achievements by referring to WVU’s record year in which students earned an unprecedented 30 national scholarships. McConnell praised the ASPIRE Office, headed by two employees, Amy Cyphert, director, and Cate Johnson, program coordinator, for its hand in helping students apply for such scholarships.
“The work of the ASPIRE office has obviously borne fruit, in the form of national scholarships and opportunities for some of our most talented students, instances of recognition of which we can all be tremendously proud,” McConnell said.
“In addition to the tangible rewards of engaging with the ASPIRE Office, however, are the intangible benefits, which our students clearly recognize and deeply value.”
In other business, the Board approved a resolution to appoint WVU Tech President Carolyn Long as emeritus Board chair. Long has spent much of her career as an educator, having served as a teacher and administrator in the West Virginia public school and higher education systems.
Long also served as the first female chairperson of the WVU Board of Governors from 2008-2011 and was the first female superintendent of Braxton County Schools.
The next BOG meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9.
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