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Ericke Cage

ERICKE CAGE

With the 2022 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature beginning this week, it is a critical time for all institutions of higher education, but especially for West Virginia State University.

As an 1890 land-grant university, WVSU plays a vital role not only here in the Kanawha Valley, but throughout the entire state of West Virginia.

Through the university’s Extension Service, we are positively affecting all 55 counties of the state through programs relating to health and nutrition, community and economic development, agriculture, 4-H and more.

We are on the front lines of public service and are constantly working to identify innovative and practical solutions to the complex challenges faced by the hard-working men, women and families of West Virginia.

A key example is our Healthy Grandfamilies program, through which we are helping to provide guidance and solutions to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. West Virginia ranks second in the nation in the number of grandfamily households, and work done by our university is helping to address this great need throughout the Mountain State.

To continue to provide these and other vital services, we need continued investment from the Legislature to ensure the continued advancement of our university’s vision as a premier land-grant institution where an entrepreneurial spirit inspires innovative teaching and learning, transformative research and relevant community engagement.

As the Legislature gavels into the 2022 regular session, we are asking our elected leaders to provide our federally required 100% state matching funds for our land-grant programs.

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This investment will allow our extension and public service programs to continue to thrive and support our state and its people. Failure to provide these matching funds is literally leaving money from the federal government on the table, which limits our ability to serve West Virginia.

We also are asking the Legislature to provide permanent funding for our Healthy Grandfamilies program, to ensure that it continues to provide critical support to grandparents raising their grandchildren. This program is positively transforming lives and giving grandparents the tools they need to help raise the next generation of West Virginians.

WVSU calls on the Legislature to support the higher education performance-based funding formula that will be offered by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. Such a funding formula is greatly needed and will not only signal the Legislature’s enduring support for the value of higher education but also directly help incentivize excellence in educational outcomes, increase public accountability and support long-term fiscal planning and institutional sustainability.

Finally, we call on our elected leaders in the U.S. Senate to find common ground and pass the Build Back Better Act, which includes $10 billion in targeted funding for higher education. These federal investments represent a much-needed fiscal shot in the arm for WVSU, and would allow us to upgrade our campus infrastructure to support cutting-edge research that will spur innovation and help grow the West Virginia economy.

For 130 years, West Virginia State University has served as a beacon of hope and a pathway to prosperity for thousands of hard-working men and women. There are nearly 13,000 WVSU alumni in West Virginia, with more than 8,000 in Kanawha County alone. Throughout our region, and in every profession, you will find alumni of this great university who are working every day to make their lives, and our state better.

We are asking our elected officials to invest in WVSU, so that the university may continue to serve the state of West Virginia and its people.

Ericke S. Cage is interim president of West Virginia State University.

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