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Blue Ribbon panel recommends $10M for WV colleges, but alters distribution

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Blue Ribbon Commission meeting

Blue Ribbon Commission on Four-Year Higher Education co-chairs (from left, in front) Kendra Boggess, E. Gordon Gee and Jerome Gilbert, presidents of Concord University, West Virginia University and Marshall University, respectively, watch a presentation Friday from fellow Blue Ribbon Commission member Michael Farrell.

BECKLEY — The governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Four-Year Higher Education voted to approve its first recommendation Friday: increasing the annual funding for the state’s smaller colleges by $10 million.

The approved proposal would distribute the dollars differently than an earlier suggestion from Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert.

The new recommendation would give:

  • $553,000 to Bluefield State College [down from $568,000 in before]
  • $1.6 million to Concord University [down from $1.8 million]
  • $3.4 million to Fairmont State University [up from $2.6 million]
  • $40,000 to Glenville State College [up from zero]
  • Zero to Marshall University [same as before]
  • Zero to Potomac State College of West Virginia University [down from $302,000]
  • $2.5 million to Shepherd University [down from $2.8 million]
  • $1 million to West Liberty University [down from $1.4 million]
  • Zero to the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine [same as before]
  • $860,000 to West Virginia State University [up from $484,000]
  • Zero to West Virginia University [same as before]
  • Zero to West Virginia University Institute of Technology [same as before]

Friday’s meeting seemed to spell the end of Gilbert’s previous proposal to cut the separate state Higher Education Policy Commission’s funding by up to $2 million to provide some of that $10 million. The Blue Ribbon Commission is still considering significant changes to the HEPC.

Blue Ribbon panel member and current Marshall Board of Governors member Gary White said before the vote that the money would come out of the state budget surplus. Fellow panel member and Fairmont State University President Mirta Martin said “we’re not looking to have these funds taken from other agencies.”

Other than the proposed HEPC cut, Gilbert’s proposal was based on a modified version of one of the HEPC staff’s proposed college-funding formulas. The Legislature ordered the HEPC to recommend a formula.

Blue Ribbon panel members have said the new recommendation is based roughly on increasing the equality of the amount of state funding per full-time-equivalent in-state student among all the state’s public four-year colleges, except for WVU, Marshall, their branch campuses and the School of Osteopathic Medicine, in Lewisburg.

Martin said the funding increase is meant to set new base budgets for future years. She said the state funding per full-time equivalent in-state student method used to calculate those amounts was a one-time approach used to set these new base budgets, and it’s not meant to be used in future years.

There is no formula, based on enrollment or otherwise, used to determine how lawmakers fund colleges.

The panel is asking Gov. Jim Justice to let its members work on a longer-term funding formula for roughly another year after the Dec. 10 due date Justice set for the panel’s report.

Calculations provided by panel member and Shepherd University Board of Governors President Eric Lewis showed the recommendation would bring the amount of state funding per full-time-equivalent in-state student to about $6,100 for six of the seven schools that would receive funding.

While Glenville would get just $40,000 in the recommendation, Lewis’ numbers show its state funding per full-time-equivalent in-state student would rise to $6,243 due to it already being the highest in that area among those seven schools.

Glenville President Tracy Pellett opposes the recommendation, but Martin said the other presidents, including those of WVU and Marshall, are all behind it.

Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton and one of six nonvoting panel members from the Legislature, objected to Glenville’s amount in the recommendation, saying it would give the appearance to others that “Glenville is truly under attack or somehow is being singled out.” His district includes Glenville.

HEPC Chairman Michael Farrell voted against the recommendation, saying he disagreed with Glenville’s treatment. Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association union, abstained.

Martin said the common higher education full-time-equivalency calculation already requires that four dual-enrollment students (high-schoolers taking college courses), each taking one three-credit-hour course, to count as much as one full-time student (12 credit hours is considered full time).

But because she said that doesn’t fully account for the cheaper cost to educate dual-enrollment students, who take these college courses in their own high schools, the recommendation counted dual-enrollment students even less than the full-time-equivalency calculation normally does. About half of West Virginia State University’s students are dual-enrollment students.

Reach Ryan Quinn at,, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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