WVU system rises to challenges, works toward fulfilling goals, Clements says at State of University address

Acknowledged state and University system face significant budget challenges, but he also pointed to other avenues of support and how the WVU system uses resources wisely.

In telling the story of last year, West Virginia University President James P. Clements used the solar decathlon team’s journey to build a safe, environmentally friendly log home as a metaphor for the University’s progress.

One of 20 college teams selected to take part in the U.S. Department of Energy’s competition of making an energy-efficient solar house, the WVU team that had never before built a house fought a stormy summer to create the University’s first entry into the competition.

It was only one part of the flurry of activity at the University last year. But it symbolized the University’s role, Clements said, as he applauded the members of the Decathlon team in the audience.

“This project goes to the heart of what WVU is all about — that’s taking an interdisciplinary approach to meeting the needs of the state, the nation and the world,” he said.

Emerging through challenges

Clements acknowledged the significant budget challenges facing the state and the University system, but he also pointed to other avenues of support and how the WVU system has managed to use its resources wisely.

As WVU prepares for the $13 million state reduction and other losses in 2014, budget priorities will be guided by several factors, he said: WVU’s core academic mission, its 2020 strategic plan, campus infrastructure improvements, both technology and facilities – and a desire to give raises in fiscal year 2015.

“The people at WVU are our most important asset that we have, and we want to retain and recruit the best,” Clements said. “We simply have to move towards nationally competitive salaries if we are to deliver on our mandate for quality education, innovation and engagement needed to serve 55 counties across the state.”

Underscoring some momentum over the last four years, Clements cited these positive indicators:

  • Enrollment grew by 2 percent to 32,595 while the figures for student diversity rose by about 28 percent.
  • Annual private giving since 2009 has been about $117 million, much higher than the 10-year average before that of $55 million.
  • Sponsored programs have experienced an all-time high in the last four years.
  • Healthcare operations statewide have grown from about 700,000 patients in 2008 to about 930,000 in 2012. With that growth has come an increase in revenue from $1.1 billion in 2008 to $1.65 billion in 2012.

While WVU is growing, so is its capacity to serve. In 2012, WVU Healthcare and its statewide affiliates provided $110 million in uncompensated care to the state’s most underserved residents, Clements said.

Clements also broke down the University’s approximately $1 billion budget (not including the health care enterprise):

  • About 20 percent comes from state appropriations
  • 37 percent is made up of tuition and fees
  • The remainder is from grants, contracts and revenue from units such as housing and dining services that are used to sustain the unit
  • Capital bonds are funding the new academic and research facilities — which must be used specifically for that purpose

The combined resources from tuition and fees and the state must go toward many things, he added: employee salaries and benefits, classroom and technology upgrades, the libraries, research start-up packages for faculty, student recruitment, advising, transportation, utilities, and much more.

All in all, WVU receives less funding per student from both tuition and state appropriations than its peer institutions, he added.

The need to excel

Clements pointed out that the national education crisis requires that higher education institutions rise to meet the “innovation deficit” that is widening between the U.S. and other developed nations.

“Consider this troubling fact: The U.S. has fallen to 16th among developed countries in the percentage of young adults who hold a college degree,” Clements said. “Also consider this fact: Over the last 10 years, R&D expenditures as a share of economic output have remained nearly constant in the U.S. but have increased by nearly 50 percent in South Korea and nearly 90 percent in China.”

Clements said he was one of 200 presidents in the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to send a letter to the White House and Congress urging federal support for research.

“The budget constraints we are all facing nationally have limited our capacity to meet our responsibilities. However — and I think all of us in this room will agree—focusing on our land-grant mission, that will make us stronger,” he said.

“For example, by maintaining the quality of our academic research and our public service programs and by providing an overall positive student experience, WVU has continued to meet our enrollment goals while attracting students of higher academic standing.”

He pointed to one recent success: In a preliminary analysis for WVU’s main campus, incoming freshmen are showing significant increases in high school GPAs, and ACT and SAT scores.

Moving forward strategically

Clements highlighted the milestones that are bringing the University much closer to its 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future goals.

Goal 1: Engage undergraduate, graduate and professional students in a challenging academic environment

Within the last year, the University established both the University College and the Division of Academic Innovation and entered the world of massive, open, online courses as well as added new degree programs and faculty positions.

University College is an academic home for pre-majors, general studies and nontraditional students.

The Division of Academic Innovation is championing new techniques in the classroom. The office is overseeing WVU’s first massive, open, online courses, known as MOOCs, in partnership with provider Coursera.

Clements noted that the University’s current participation in the Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation process is strengthening the University’s strategic direction. A Pathways accreditation process put in place by the University will strengthen accreditation activities between site visits. The upcoming accreditation site visit is April 7-9.

Goal 2: Excel in research, creative activity and innovation in all disciplines

The University is moving forward in five “Mountains of Excellence” areas:

  • Eliminating health disparities in Appalachia
  • Improving STEM education and scientific literacy
  • Utilizing shale gas responsibly
  • Promoting stewardship of water resources
  • Achieving international leadership in radio astronomy

Among the achievements are a partnership with The Ohio State University surrounding shale energy and a $19.6 million National Institutes of Health grant to address the most common health issues affecting West Virginians.

Goal 3: Create an integrated administrative infrastructure to promote diversity, inclusion, equality and intercultural and intercommunity outreach

The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has streamlined diversity and accessibility services at one new location and is working to create an atmosphere of inclusivity for all.

New initiatives will include encouraging growth in the Hispanic population at WVU, expanding the African-American community in number and participation, and explore the possibility of an office for WVU’s Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Questioning and Transgender community.

Goal 4: Advance international activity and global engagement

Under the leadership of WVU’s first chief global officer, the University is supporting global engagement across campus and throughout the world.

The Global Engagement Roundtable group is working toward the goals of:

  • Doubling the percentage of international students from 4.8 percent to 10 percent of the student body
  • Doubling the number of inbound international scholars and professionals
  • Doubling the percentage of study-abroad participants from 3.6 percent to 6 percent of the student body

Also, the international first-time freshman population grew by 60 percent in 2012 to a total of 136 students, more than doubling the freshman of 2010 and tripling the 2009 class.

Goal 5: Enhance the well-being and quality of life of the people of West Virginia

The University has continued to support its important land-grant mission based on the Morrill Act signed by Abraham Lincoln, Clements said.

This coming year, the University’s mission of state outreach will be underscored with the celebration of the Smith-Lever Act, which created the Cooperative Extension Service.

“From dentistry to law to journalism, to mining extension and rural health initiatives, our colleges and divisions serve West Virginia across the entire state,” Clements said.

Successes to celebrate

Among the many successes that Clements highlighted during his address:

  • Donors to the WVU Foundation State of Minds campaign have reached the 90 percent mark of the $750 million goal with more than $670 million pledged before the December 2015 end goal.
  • Both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s financial rating services gave the University high bond ratings for private support, diverse revenue streams, strong programs, stable enrollment.
  • Partnerships with Big 12 schools are growing to include student affairs and marketing efforts, faculty exchanges and research collaborations, as well as the receipt by researchers of seven Big 12 Faculty Fellowships.
  • In the past three years, 10 students earned Fulbright scholarships for international study compared to one WVU student Fulbright scholarship in the previous 17 years.
  • The University partnered with AIR.U, the Advanced Internet Regions consortium, to use vacant broadcast TV channels to provide the main campus and nearby areas with wireless broadband Internet service—the first University in the nation to do so.
  • WVU hosted national dialogues in support of the land-grant mission that included a National Research Council forum, a national panel on innovation and a National Academy of Science shale gas workshop.
  • The University continues to invest in infrastructure and capital facilities with a number of new buildings from academic programming to student health.

The future starts with students

After detailing all of the challenges and successes of the past year, Clements brought his speech back around to the students, especially those who built the Solar Decathlon house.

“Since I started at WVU, the University has graduated 25,473 students, — that’s 25,473 dreams coming true,” Clements said.

“I can’t think of another place as committed to making a real difference as our West Virginia University community, and I am proud to serve along with you in that effort.”



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