West Virginia commission chair pushes back on university leaders
- The head of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) has defended the group from criticism by West Virginia University President Gordon Gee and pushed back against efforts to disband it or limit its power to only small state institutions, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
- HEPC Chairman Michael Farrell wrote in a letter that the commission's oversight of the state's two biggest universities, WVU and Marshall University, has been limited by the legislature, allowing the universities to independently build their academic programs, increase tuition up to 10%, hire presidents and make some purchases and capital improvements without approval.
- Gee and Marshall President Jerome Gilbert have suggested weakening the HEPC. Gilbert has recommended cutting funding to the commission by $2 million and adding $8 million from a state budget surplus to help fund smaller state colleges. Meanwhile, Gee has said HEPC had overstepped it's role as a policy commission and is unhealthy for higher education in its current form.
At the center of the dispute in West Virginia is state funding, with Gee and Gilbert most concerned about a performance-based funding model the HEPC is considering that would cut WVU's state funding by nearly 9% if approved by the legislature, the Wheeling News-Register reports. Gee has said the HEPC adds an expensive and redundant form of oversight and has called on the state's legislature to invest recent surpluses into higher education.
Deep cuts in state funding for higher education have caused public colleges and universities to sometimes compete in a scramble to fill the void. That often pits well-funded state universities against smaller schools that are struggling, with performance-based funding models further complicating the issue.
In nearby Kentucky, some universities have complained because they got no part of $31 million in state funding that was determined by a new performance-based model, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. The model doles out state dollars based in part from the number of degrees an institution produces, which critics say hurts smaller schools. And in Tennessee and Florida, performance-based models have reduced how much money the states allocate to their flagship HBCUs, making it harder for the institutions that cater to marginalized student groups to implement new programs or provide scholarships.
- Carleston Gazette-Mail HEPC chairman defends agency against Gee's criticisms