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Student-Focused Funding for West Virginia Public Higher Education

On March 23, 2018, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) presented the new funding model for state colleges and universities: Mandated by the West Virginia Legislature, the new funding model rewards schools that use the state taxpayers’ dollars to education residents of the state of West Virginia.

Under this new funding model, Shepherd, which has been the lowest funded state college/university for decades, would benefit with $3.4 million in reallocated funding. Also, under the new performance metrics, West Virginia University would lose $9.2 million and WVU Tech would lose $3.2 million.

The Blue Ribbon Commission, convened by the governor to examine higher education, and the subsequent “forced” sabbatical of Chancellor Paul Hill, the new funding model’s champion and architect, has delayed the implementation of the funding model that would reward Shepherd University. Additionally, WVU Tech’s president, Carolyn Long, has been installed as the interim chancellor, and WVU’s president, Gordon Gee, is a co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission, giving WVU disproportionate influence on the governance of the college/university system and on the Blue Ribbon Commission–an influence that could severely impact Shepherd’s autonomy and funding.

Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission

On June 28, 2018, Governor Jim Justice announced a Blue Ribbon Commission to examine four-year public higher education. The commission, co-chaired by WVU’s President Gordon Gee, Marshall’s President Jerome Gilbert, and Concord’s President Kendra Boggess, is to submit its report to the governor by December 10, 2018. Thirty-six percent of the commission’s membership is made up of WVU partisans. Shepherd’s representative is Board of Governors chair and alumnus Eric Lewis.

The governor’s charge, issued July 27, 2018, states:

Governor Jim Justice sent this charge to the Chairs of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Four Year Higher Education this morning in advance of their first meeting today. The Governor hopes this charge will guide the Commission as they undertake the task of examining West Virginia’s four year higher education system.

Guiding Principles

The Governor charges the Blue Ribbon Commission on Four Year Higher Education to recommend policies, structure, and organization to improve four-year higher education. The Report will be submitted to the Governor by December 10, 2018.

Structure and organization

The Commission will recommend policies that support keeping schools in communities with institutional local governing boards, and that support mission differentiation, particularly, service, research, and innovation. In forming recommendations, the Commission will do the following:

Educational Attainment

The Commission will recommend policies that provide all four-year institutions the opportunity to meet goals to increase access, retention and degree attainment. The Commission will do the following:

Blue Ribbon Commission Minutes

July 27, 2018: Summary (Draft)Minutes (Draft)

Advocate for Shepherd University

You can help Shepherd remain strong and independent by writing to the chairs of the Senate and House Education Committees. Let them know that you support the Student-Focused Funding model, which would provide $3.4 million to Shepherd’s budget if implemented. Let them know that it is time to fix the decades-old funding model that has Shepherd dead last when it comes to funding per student and let them know that Shepherd should remain independent of any takeover attempt by WVU or any other university.

The Senate education chair is Senator Kenny Mann (R-Monroe):

The House education chair is Delegate Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson): Delegate Espinosa also serves on the Blue Ribbon Commission as an ex officio nonvoting member.

Senate membership: Please find your local senator on the roster at and email, call, or write them with your concerns.

House of Delegates membership: Please find your local delegate on the roster at and email, call, or write them with your concerns.

Economic Impact

A back of the envelope analysis by Dr. Ben Martz, dean of the College of Business, of publicly available data from a 2016 report by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research and data from a 2017 story by MetroNews shows that Shepherd University has a return on investment (ROI) of $9.73 for every dollar invested by the state. According to his analysis, Shepherd’s ROI is better than Marshall ($8.94) and Fairmont State ($5.66). As a research intensive, R1 university, WVU leads the list with an ROI of $13.60 for each dollar invested.

ROI for State Universities

University Impact* Investment (State Funds)** ROI (Impact/Investment)
WVU $1,400,000,000 $102,931,727 $13.60
Marshall $398,000,000 $44,499,000 $8.94
Shepherd $91,100,000 $9,360,954 $9.73
Fairmont $82,600,000 $14,579,417 $5.66

*Source Impact:
**Source Investment: