Marshall University to host series of forums focused on higher education funding in West Virginia

Updated 8 years ago Special to HNN Provided by Marshall University

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp has announced a series of forums designed for faculty, students and members of the community to discuss an anticipated second round of budget cuts to state higher education funding. Forums will be held next week on three of the university's campuses.

The forums, which are sponsored by the Office of the President and the Marshall University Faculty Senate, will be moderated by Beth Vorhees, news director for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Each forum begins at 6 p.m. and will run as follows:

  • Monday, Nov. 4, at the Marshall University Mid-Ohio Valley Center, Point Pleasant;
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the Marshall University John Deaver Drinko Library, Third Floor Atrium, Huntington; and,
  • Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Marshall University South Charleston Campus Library, South Charleston.

Legislators and representatives from the governor's office as well as members of the Higher Education Policy Commission have been invited to attend. The forums are all open to the public.

This year, higher education institutions in West Virginia underwent a 7.5 percent cut to their state budget appropriations and have been asked to submit budgets reflecting cuts of another 7.5 percent for next year. The forums have been designed to give the public an opportunity to learn about budget cuts and their impact as well as to ask questions.

President Kopp said that the responsibility of funding public higher education is being shifted increasingly to students and their families.

"Our students and their families are the ones who experience the direct financial impact," Kopp said. "But we also need to evaluate the long-term effects of cuts to public higher education funding in terms of their implications for future state economic development. Additional cuts portend lasting implications for our state and region."

Dr. Marybeth Beller is a political science faculty member and chairwoman of the Faculty Senate Legislative Affairs Committee. She said when cuts are made to state funding for higher education, tuition often increases while services decline and programs are eliminated entirely.

"It felt critical to work on this early with President Kopp to make sure everyone understands the vast impact including causing the state's economic development to suffer that additional cuts would have on higher education," Beller said. "We're not asking for more funding, but we definitely don't want to be cut again."

Beller cited statistics from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, The Value of Public Higher Education, in which Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce stated that by 2018, the State of West Virginia needs to produce an additional 20,000 college degrees just to sustain its current economy. The report notes that although this figure seems intimidating, this goal can be accomplished by increasing degree completion rates of students already enrolled in the in the two- and four-year systems as well as through enrollment increases.

The article also stated that by 2020, 51 percent of West Virginia jobs will require an associate degree or higher. Currently, only 27 percent of West Virginians fall in that category.