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MINUTES: Nov. 27, 2018
Summary notes from Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education
Meeting on November 27
Delegate Atkinson; Mr. Becker; President Boggess; Delegate Boggs; Ms. Cappellanti; Dr. Courts; Delegate Espinosa; Mr. Farrell; President Gee; President Gilbert; President Jenkins; Mr. Lee; Mr. Lewis; President Martin; Mr. Payne; Senator Prezioso
President Gee convened the meeting at 1:03 p.m. and asked Amy Garbrick to call the roll. He then asked if there were any changes or corrections to the summary of the November 15 meeting. Hearing none, the commission voted to approve the summary.
President Gee said there would need to be another meeting of the commission after this one and it would be scheduled as soon as possible. He said the primary reason for the additional meeting was that the governance subcommittee is still working with the regional presidents to get their input on potential changes and more time is needed for those discussions to continue.
President Gee then made some opening comments. He referenced the recent article by Richard Vedder in Forbes Magazine entitled, “West Virginia Higher Education: Many Colleges but Little Learning or Income,” as another sign of the state’s higher education crisis. He said the Governor recognized this crisis and it was the main reason for the creation of the blue ribbon commission. President Gee went on to say that the Governor is focused on efficiency and quality and wants recommendations from the commission that will improve both of these areas. He said that the Governor is asking for new ideas and that if the commission simply asks for more money without change, the proposal will be “DOA” in the Governor’s office. He commented that there is a fine line between skepticism and cynicism, and advised against cynicism driven by fear of change or support for the status quo. He then asked Mr. Payne to provide an update on the governance subcommittee’s work.
Mr. Payne reported that he met with most of the regional presidents on the Friday, November 16, after the HEPC meeting, to continue to get their feedback on changes to HEPC. He thanked President Martin for coordinating the collection of the presidents’ written feedback. Mr. Payne said the timing of Thanksgiving Week delayed the process a bit. He said that some of the concerns raised by Mr. Farrell about the subcommittee’s proposal, such as managing the state’s financial aid programs and the provision of legal services, are addressed in the subcommittee’s draft legislation but were not included explicitly in the draft executive summary of that legislation. He apologized for that oversight. Mr. Payne stressed that the subcommittee is not proposing to deny these vital services to the regional institutions. To the contrary, the subcommittee wants a service agency that provides these services, and others, to any institution that need them in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible. He agreed that these services should include state financial aid programs such as PROMISE and the Higher Education Grant, legal services, facilities planning and capital projects, and WVNET. As for EPSCoR and the Regional Technology Park, Mr. Payne suggested both would benefit from oversight by a reconstituted State Science and Research Council. He concluded by saying the subcommittee continues to work on the proposal and expects to finish prior to the Christmas holiday to give the Governor time to review prior to the start of the 2019 legislative session.
President Gee asked President Martin for her thoughts on the governance subcommittee’s work.
President Martin thanked Mr. Payne for meeting with the regional presidents on the 16th. Regarding the proposal, she said most of the presidents “don’t know what they don’t know” and are looking for additional information and details. She is collecting feedback from presidents using an Excel spreadsheet that breaks down all of HEPC’s current authority and services. She shared this spreadsheet with Mr. Payne on Monday. She expressed her belief that the subcommittee’s work is a good beginning and that consensus can be reached, but more work needs to be done to assure the regional presidents that the vital services on which they depend will continue under a new arrangement.
Mr. Lewis commented that Shepherd University did not fully agree with the regional presidents’ decision not to endorse the proposal. Shepherd’s position is that the governance subcommittee’s proposal is conceptual and that more details will emerge as the work continues. Given this, Shepherd has submitted extensive comments on the Excel spreadsheet and is comfortable with moving forward conceptually with the proposal as presented. Shepherd also supports an extension of time but no later than the end of the year.
President Martin said that Fairmont State, like Shepherd, uses fewer HEPC services than the other regional institutions but she stressed that the “devil is in the details” in terms of the proposal. The regional presidents want to know specifically what they are being asked to endorse and that conversations along these lines need to continue to reach consensus.
President Gee then asked Mr. Becker, as a member of the governance subcommittee, for his comments.
Mr. Becker complimented Mr. Payne on his leadership of the governance subcommittee. He reiterated that the subcommittee is committed to providing essential services to the regional institutions in a cost-effective manner, which is especially important in light of budget constraints and declining enrollments.
Mr. Farrell asked when the full document will be ready for review.
Mr. Payne replied that the full document should be ready no later than mid-December.
Mr. Farrell asked if anyone has approached the Governor about requesting an extension of the commission’s deadline.
President Gee replied that he will work with the Governor’s Office to request an extension and reiterated the need to go to the Governor with a consensus set of recommendations.
President Martin reminded the commission that generating and providing feedback is a time-consuming task and much of this work is falling on the regional presidents, who also have campuses to run. She hopes to aggregate the presidents’ responses on the Excel spreadsheet and schedule individual meetings between the presidents and Mr. Payne to discuss these responses as soon as possible.
President Jenkins echoed the comments made by others and expressed his opinion that the proposal is something that can be built on. He repeated his question from a previous meeting about the fiscal implications of the proposed change—what are the cost savings of the OPE model? If the new model comes with cost savings, this should be explained.
President Gee and Mr. Payne said the governance subcommittee was working on an estimate of the fiscal implications and would share that with the full commission when it was ready.
President Boggess said that HEPC provides essential services such as financial aid administration that help every institution, not just Concord, and these services need to continue.
Mr. Farrell offered help from HEPC staff with numbers and data related to estimating the fiscal implications.
President Gee then asked Mr. Farrell for an update from the collaboration subcommittee.
Mr. Farrell thanked everyone for submitting information about their current collaborations, which are included as appendices to the subcommittee’s draft report. He identified WVU as having a particularly extensive list of collaborations, many of which can serve as good examples for other institutions. He invited commission members to provide written comments on the subcommittee’s draft report over the next 10 days to guide the revision of the report.
President Gee thanked Mr. Farrell and the collaboration subcommittee for a very comprehensive report. Apropos the discussion about collaboration, he also said that now is the time to urge the Governor to bring the community and technical colleges into this discussion so the four-year and two-year institutions can work more closely together.
Ms. Cappellanti offered a correction to the collaboration subcommittee’s report that WVU Hospitals are not owned by WVU, and that she would send the correct information to Mr. Farrell.
Dr. Courts agreed with the need to go to the Governor with new ideas and said that the collaboration subcommittee’s report contained several new and promising ideas that could be helpful to the Governor’s efforts to improve efficiency and quality.
President Jenkins said the collaboration subcommittee’s draft report is very solid, and that more time will be helpful as he and the other regional presidents review it to gather new ideas and identify some collective questions to be raised in the coming days.
Mr. Lewis asked about scheduling another meeting, presumably to discuss a full report with recommendations from all three subcommittees.
President Gee said the full commission would meet again to consider a full report but that he hoped it would not disband after that but continue into “Phase 2” to deal with the development of a long-term funding formula and the collaboration with the community and technical colleges.
Mr. Lee reiterated his question about what the costs of a proposed change will be to the regional institutions and whether these costs will be passed on to students. He reminded the commission to be sure to consider the impact of any changes on students.
President Gee thanked everyone for their work and said plans would be made for the next meeting as soon as possible. He adjourned the meeting at 1:59 p.m.