January 23, 2003
The January 23 ACF meeting took place at Marshall University. After the meeting, the ACF met with Chancellor Mullen and then joined the Marshall Senate for further discussion with Dr. Mullen, who had just made a presentation before the House Finance Committee. On Friday, January 24, ACF members went to the capitol in Charleston to speak with legislators.
The following agenda items were discussed at the Thursday meeting:
1. Dr. Flack noted the following issues with which his office is currently concerned: a. Updating Campus Compacts: The updated institutional compacts appear in many cases to "promise too much to too many," according to Flack. He questioned whether some proposed expansions, such as graduate programs in some of the four-year institutions, were simply "inconsistent with the reality" of what institutions could reasonably provide. While he praised plans to increase graduation rates, he noted that some of the planning was "too much a scatter-shot approach." b. Restructuring Higher Education: Whether some institutions actually close or not, "restructuring" will certainly occur. This is a time, Dr. Flack noted, for all institutions to look realistically at their missions and eliminate duplication. While the Central Office will be hit hard itself in terms of budget and staff cuts, institutions across the State will have to decide what they can and cannot best do, and make changes based upon those decisions. For the three institutions in a precarious position in the system--Potomac State, Glenville, and Bluefield--the most likely scenario is merging with other institutions and elimination of administrative duplication. c. Report on "College Courses for High School Students: Dr. Flack shared a draft of the latest study on college courses offered in the high schools (draft available). He noted that 86% of these courses were "dual credit" or concurrent enrollment and 14% were simply college courses offered on high school campuses. The report details efforts at quality control and maintaining standards; however, the question was asked about "grade inflation" and watering down content. Dr. Flack felt that though these problems may occur in some high schools, the fact is that only the top students enroll in dual courses and he believed that the learning curve was high. A tracking study would be the only way to really tell. d. Advice on Legislative Machinations: Dr. Flack's advice concerning ACF visits to the Legislature was that we focus on big issues, educating legislators about what we do, encouraging them not to micromanage higher education and to allow individual institutions to make their budget cuts and institutional changes themselves, since there is no "one size fits all" approach to any of our institutional fiscal problems. Flack noted that "doing more with less" was possible if we look at administrative structures (i.e., eliminating duplications, taking advantage of technology, and sharing courses and facilities where appropriate).
Dr. Mullen later echoed this advice and asked that the ACF and WV higher education faculty "support the plan" being presented to legislators:
i. Tuition flexibility;
ii. More decentralization of personnel and budget decision making;
iii. Restoration of certain higher education budget items (see page 28 of Chancellor's "Budget Analysis of Fiscal Year 2003-2004);
iv. Flexibility for campus Boards of Governors to address budget issues;
v. Support of raising "pop" and "tobacco" taxes.
2. 2003 Legislation: The following bills should be tracked carefully (see HEPC website at www.hepc.wvnet.edu) :
a. HB 2224- This proposed legislation will close, privatize, or merge several WV institutions of higher learning and apply the savings to workers' compensation;
b. HB 2155- This proposed legislation will place a 4% cap on any tuition raises (the Chancellor made a presentation against this legislation this morning in the House Finance Committee);
c. HB 2082- This legislation will add two new HEPC members from the Economic Round Table;
d. HB 2332- This legislation proposes more studies to be conducted by the HEPC on higher education in the State.
The ACF encourages all its constituents to write, email, call (1.877.565.3447) your legislators to express your thoughts about these issues; most important; in particular, contact your legislators to ask their support in raising the Tobacco Tax by 55 cents (to support health care in WV) and raising the "Soda Pop" tax (to support education). These appear to be the only viable ways to increase State revenues at this time. It is important to remember that future budget cuts to address health care and other essential needs may cripple higher education.
3. Results of Legislative Survey: Chair Moore shared the results of the legislative survey requesting positions on the four ACF 2003 Legislative Concerns (see brochure). The response was slim, with 12 House members and 4 Senators responding in writing for the record (hard copies of the responses are available). ACF members will meet Friday at the capitol rotunda in order to make personal contacts with legislators.
Discussion with Chancellor Mullen
The following is a synthesis of the two discussions with the Chancellor (ACF and Marshall Senate), as there was some overlap in content. Dr. Mullen presented a Budget Analysis of Fiscal Year 2003-2004; this is essentially the presentation that Mullen presented to the Senate Finance Committee earlier on Thursday (hard copy available); some of the highlights and specifics will be listed below.
Dr. Mullen noted that 47 of the 50 states are in budget crisis at this time, some worse than West Virginia. Further, this fiscal crisis will remain a fact for some time, and new financing initiatives will have to be found if state governments continue to function. He encouraged all higher education constituents to contact their legislators asking for support of "tobacco tax" and "pop tax" increases.
Mullen reminded the group that SB 653 altered the administrative structure of higher education in the State, making the individual campuses autonomous and the HEPC and Chancellor's office merely policy makers. Mullen also shared a version of the "2002 Report Card at a Glance," evaluating WV higher education (hardcopy available). He noted that core courses in the high schools have been declining, which explains the need for remediation in college, and he cited "affordability" as receiving the lowest grade on the "report card."
A "Combined Financial Summary" (available) indicating total higher education revenues reveals the States' portion of the cost of higher education at only 42%. Thus each campus must have autonomy in raising tuition (something HB2155 will eliminate with its 4% cap). A 2002 "Combined Financial Statement" chart suggests, according to Dr. Mullen, that "administration" is the only practical area for cost cutting, since staffing, instruction, library material, etc. are at "bare bones" already. Mullen was adamant about not pitting higher education against K-12 education in any battle for bucks, but he made clear (both to the ACF and to the Marshall Senate) that higher education has sustained growth in the past decade, whereas K-12 has not (320,000 K-12 students in 1992 as opposed to 280,000 K-12 students in 2002; 61,831 FTE higher education enrollment in 1992 as opposed to 64,965 in 2002). Mullen shared a plethora of data on enrollment, degrees awarded throughout the State, and system-wide budgets (hardcopies available). One interesting chart revealed the $2,126,475 2003 budget of Bluefield (with 606 student fall enrollment) that was only a few thousand dollars more than the 2003 budget of Eastern CTC (with only 164 student fall enrollment).
Mullen noted that the lottery is now more important than ever to support higher education, yet the forecast is for a decline in lottery "revenues." The shadow of the lottery proffers resistance to new bond initiatives, unfortunately. What these shortfalls mean to faculty and staff is that the rising cost of PEIA (13% next year) will likely be passed on to us, as will the 30% increase in BRIM. Mullen shared the HEPC "Budget Priority Issues" for 2003 (hardcopy available).
In the question and answer session, these questions were asked by the Marshall Senate chair, and Mullen responded as noted below:
1. "Explain what you mean by higher education 'doing more with less.'" Mullen answered that consolidation of administrative structures is a viable method of "doing more with less." Cooperation among institutions will address the issue of small classes (under 10). Mullen noted that institutions must realistically reassess their stated missions and determine what programs are essential to the campus and region.
2. "Why have you not defended the concept of "no cuts" in higher education [as is the case with K-12]?" "No cuts" for higher education is not realistic given the severity of State budget cuts, Mullen answered.
3. "Define what you mean by 'substantial merit.'" Mullen answered that "substantial" means "more than half."
4. "Is the closure of WV colleges in order to support workers' compensation viable?" Mullen answered that "restructuring" is fundamentally necessary; he also noted that LOCEA had asked for the same kind of analysis that Glenville, Bluefield, and Potomac State have just undergone to be conducted of all other campuses.
5. "Do you support faculty achieving 'incremental salary increases based on years of service' similar to other 'state employees'?" Mullen answered that PEIA inequities are a better issue.
The next ACF meeting will be in Charleston on February 20, 2003.
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