Higher Education Policy Commission approves new master plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- By 2018, the number of jobs in West Virginia that demand a college degree will increase by 20,000, while nearly half of all jobs will require some sort of postsecondary training, according to the draft of a new master plan approved by the state Higher Education Policy Commission.Those additional 20,000 college graduates will "merely sustain -- not grow or diversify -- the state's economy," according to HEPC chancellor Paul Hill.The new five-year plan for the state's public colleges, titled "Leading the Way: Access, Success, Impact," focuses on increasing degree production, providing more access to education through affordability and getting stakeholders to work together to achieve those goals.The state is at a critical point economically, and needs to develop a more diverse marketplace by re-examining its entire education system to meet ever-changing demands, according to the report."Both young people and adults, including those already in the workforce, will need the ability to move from one highly skilled job to another throughout their career. ... These economic realities situate public higher education as vital in meeting current workforce demands and pushing West Virginia's economy forward," the report states.To increase access to an education, the commission hopes to work with universities to redirect funds to help more students stay in school and graduate, as well as working to keep college education as affordable as possible.The HEPC also hopes to reach out to more disadvantaged students about the benefits of a college education. Only 25 percent of the state's low-income high school students enroll in college. The state's overall college-going rate is 60 percent.
In addition to increasing the overall enrollment of college students in the state to about 74,000, the HEPC hopes to dramatically increase the number of minority and nontraditional students who enroll, as well.Other main goals include better preparing high school students for college-level courses, decreasing the college dropout rate and increasing in-state research.The HEPC is requesting public feedback on the master plan. Comments can be emailed to masterplan@hepc.wvnet.edu through Jan. 14.Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.   
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