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MINUTES: October 2, 2018 Full Committee Meeting
Summary notes from Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education
Meeting on 2 October
Members participating: Delegate Atkinson; Mr. Becker; President Boggess; Delegate Boggs; Dr. Courts; Delegate Espinosa; Mr. Farrell; President Gee; President Gilbert; Mr. Lewis; President Martin; Mr. Payne; Mr. White
President Gee called the meeting to order at 1:06 p.m. He began the meeting by asking member if they had additions, corrections, or revisions to the notes and minutes of the phone meeting on 10 September. Hearing none, President Gee asked for a motion to approve the notes and minutes as submitted. It was moved and seconded, and the commission voted in favor.
President Gee noted that the commission was now into the work of the three subcommittees (governance, finance, and collaborations) and updates and discussions from these subcommittees would comprise most of this meeting. Based on the subcommittees’ progress thus far, he felt the commission was on track with its timeline to have a report and recommendations ready to share with the Governor and Legislature in December. With that, he asked Mr. Payne, chair of the governance subcommittee, to start with an update on that work.
Mr. Payne went quickly through a PowerPoint presentation that reiterated the Governor’s charge to the full commission and then turned to the goals of the governance subcommittee. He stated that each governing board should be allowed to govern its own institution. Mr. Payne said the subcommittee’s top priorities are improving efficiency and eliminating bureaucracy so institutions can be more successful. He said the subcommittee was continuing to look at different models and examples from other states, and would have a draft set of recommendations to share with the full commission by the next in-person meeting on 26 October.
Mr. Becker, a member of the governance subcommittee, agreed with Mr. Payne. He said the Governor and Legislature went to the trouble of creating institutional governing boards, so we should let these boards do their jobs and the Governor and Legislature should hold them accountable for their work. Mr. Becker said the way in which the proposed central service agency would be governed remains an issue for consideration.
President Boggess asked Mr. Payne what this proposal would mean for institutions. For example, would each institution report their own data to the Legislature?
Mr. Payne clarified that one of the roles of the proposed service agency would continue to be collecting data and serving as a data clearinghouse to the Legislature and to federal agencies. He said some of the duties and functions of the current HEPC would continue with the new service agency because of the value of having that work done in the aggregate at the state level.
President Martin expressed her view that the service agency model should not take away services but instead should enhance the governing function at the institutional level.
President Boggess inquired about to whom would the governing boards report.
Mr. Payne replied the boards would report to the Legislature, most likely through the Legislative Oversight Committee on Educational Accountability (LOCEA). The fact that board members are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate is another tool for accountability.
President Gee thanks Mr. Payne for this update and expressed his belief that West Virginia does not want double layer of reporting and regulation. He reiterated his view that HEPC has become a super-governing board, and what he is advocating for is a service agency. He said we need to know how much cost savings would come from such restructuring, and recommended asking Chancellor Long to do a pro forma on this question.
Mr. Farrell disagreed with President Gee and said that HEPC is a coordinating board, not a governing board. He referred to Dr. Cole’s comment during the previous meeting that HEPC is a coordinating board. Mr. Farrell also inquired about how this new service agency would operate and what authority it would have in state law.
Mr. Payne replied that the governance subcommittee is in the process of retaining counsel to look at the legislation that would be needed to make these changes and this will be part of the subcommittee’s work going forward.
President Gee then asked Mr. White for an update from the finance subcommittee.
Mr. White reported that the subcommittee sees both a short-term and a longer-term problem. In the short-term, institutions have been subject to multiple cuts in recent years and to address this, the subcommittee is advocating for President Gilbert’s proposal.
President Gilbert began by stating his strong belief that all institutions need to support any funding formula for it to be successful. Since not all institutions did support the formula, he felt it would be better to propose a short-term compromise. His compromise requests a $10 million appropriation from the Legislature that would be distributed to seven regional institutions (BSC, CU, FSU, PSC, SU, WLU, and WVSU) using the HEPC formula as the basis for the allocations. President Gilbert said that all institutions are underfunded, but some are more underfunded than others. For example, WVSU may need more money for its land-grant mission. He reiterated that this $10 million would be restoration of recent cuts, not new money, and that the $10 million would not be restored the way it was cut but instead using an approach that recognizes the historical funding inequities among regional institutions. For the longer-term, President Gilbert called on the commission to use outside experts as well as current HEPC staff to develop a new formula that everyone will support. He also agreed that savings from restructuring HEPC could be used to come up with the $10 million.
President Martin stressed that this was restoration of funding, not new money. This $10 million, as distributed, would become part of the institutional base budgets and needs to be protected by the Governor and Legislature going forward. This short-term solution would allow time to develop a new and fair formula. President Martin commented on the state’s current financial situation, which is good, and hoped part of the new revenues coming in could be used to make up this $10 million. She believes HEPC restructuring will take time and any money achieved through cost savings will not be available immediately, so getting all of the $10 million from new revenue would be more realistic.
President Gee agreed that this is about restoring cuts, not getting “new” money.
Mr. Lewis said that after examining President Gilbert’s proposal more closely, he had some friendly amendments to offer. He also reminded the commission that WVU Tech’s very high funding skews the average and makes it more difficult to gauge fairness. Taking this into account, he suggested eliminating PSC’s allocation from $302,000 to $0. He also suggested decreasing SU’s allocation from $2,840,000 to $2,540,000. Combined, these two adjustments total $602,000, which Mr. Lewis would like to allocate to WVSU, bringing their proposed total to $1,086,000. He also said the subcommittee discussed the need for a requirement that institutions explain how they are going to use the restored funding, and he felt this requirement should be removed because it is restored funding and not new money. Finally, he advised the commission to look for outside groups to start work on the new formula, because that process will take time and we need to have answers by next year.
President Boggess asked about the commission’s contingency plan in case the Governor and/or Legislature is unwilling or unable to appropriate the proposed $10 million.
President Gee said he thinks HEPC can take $2 million out of its budget right away as part of getting to the $10 million.
Mr. Payne said that he will work with Mr. Farrell and Chancellor Long to determined what HEPC can afford to cut right away and what savings may be possible over a longer term, and report back to the full commission. He also said it was important for the commission to get its $10 million request in front of the Governor and Legislature now so that it does not get lost amidst other requests.
Mr. Lewis agreed and asked if everyone had seen the news earlier in the day about the Governor calling for $100 million for PEIA and a 5% salary increase for state workers, which will quickly eat up the increased revenue coming in.
Delegate Atkinson noted that Glenville does not appear on the list of institutions that would share in the $10 million distribution and he asked the commission to think about the best ways to help GSC, which has unique needs because of its location.
Delegate Boggs said that he continues to be troubled that higher education is an easy place for the Legislature to cut and that this has happened too often over the years. With that said, he also knows GSC’s board made the difficult decision a few years ago not to raise tuition, and that money went back into the pockets of students and their parents. This $10 million in restoration funding would go to the institutions, not to the students and their parents. Delegate Boggs expressed concern that leaving GSC out of this distribution is unfair, and that it effectively excludes an entire region from this effort. He asked the commission to take a wide variety of factors into account, including geographic location, population served, the number of students needing remediation, as it makes its recommendations. He declared that we should leave no school behind.
Mr. Lewis voiced appreciation for Delegate Boggs’ concern, but said that the inequities for other schools is even greater than the inequity for GSC. A history of unfair and politically-driven choices has brought us to this point. He also noted that the cost of living in the Eastern Panhandle is much higher than in central West Virginia around Glenville, and this represents a major difference between SU and GSC in terms of the funding they need to operate.
President Gee agreed that there is not sufficient value placed on higher education and any new funding formula needs to account for differentiation among institutions.
President Gilbert said he has no objections to any proposed changes, both from Mr. Lewis and the possibility of some funding for Glenville.
President Gee then asked Mr. Farrell to give an update on the collaboration subcommittee. Mr. Farrell said that the perspectives of key stakeholders informed the subcommittee’s first meeting: Chancellor Long provided the 4-year institutions’ perspective; Vice Chancellor Casey Sacks provided the 2-year institutions’ perspective; Senator Bob Plymale discussed the history and legislative intent behind the separation of the 2-year and 4-year institutions; Mr. Burch provided the perspective of the K-12 system; and Marshall faculty member Dr. Terry Fenger brought all of these perspectives together in discussing the specific example of collaboration in support of cybersecurity education and training. The next subcommittee meeting will focus on the economics of collaboration and ensuring educational institutions understand the needs of business and industry.
Dr. Courts asked if the commission should also be looking at examples of collaboration at the institutional level and if so, what examples would be particularly useful.
President Boggess said she planned to share the collaboration subcommittee’s recorded session and materials with her faculty to stimulate discussion about collaboration.
Mr. Lewis, responding to Dr. Courts, suggested that collaboration based on geography between BSC and CU and collaboration based on graduate study between SU and WVU might be good examples to consider.
With the three subcommittee updates complete, President Gee moved to the next agenda item: review of public feedback. All feedback received from the public thus far has been shared with all commission members. The feedback has also been posted on the commission’s website for review by others. There were no questions or comments from the commission about the public feedback.
There were also no questions or comments from the floor.
President Gee adjourned the meeting at 2:20 p.m.