While West Virginia University remains financially stable, it faces future challenges with continued reductions in state revenue, limited ability and desire to increase tuition and competition from other institutions, the Board of Governors was told Friday (Feb. 10).
"The University continues to invest in its students, employees and facilities as evidenced by increases in scholarships, salaries & wages and capital assets," Senior Associate Vice President Dan Durbin said in presenting the 2016 financial statements and a clean audit to the board. "The University’s balance sheet remains stable with adequate working capital (current assets less current liabilities) to meet current obligations."
In giving a clean report, which the Board unanimously adopted, auditors CliftonLarsonAllen said, "WVU is a strong, vibrant and vital part of the state of West Virginia and the region. However, like many other institutions of higher education, WVU is facing an increasingly challenging operating and financial environment due to declining state support, an increasingly competitive enrollment environment, higher tuition discounting to keep tuition affordable, increasing operating costs, and reductions in federal support.
"The University administration is taking active steps to meet these challenges through prudent financial planning and management practices designed to reduce costs, improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations and contracts, and maximize revenue opportunities."
President Gordon Gee noted that earlier this week Gov. Jim Justice proposed a $5.6 million reduction in state support for WVU.
"Due to previous cuts, we are already on track to reduce spending by $45 million, annually by 2020," Gee said. “We are committed to doing our part,” he added. “But we also believe in the magnificence of investment. You cannot reduce yourself into prosperity.”
Noting that the University began celebrating its 150th anniversary on Tuesday (Feb. 7), Gee said it is an opportunity to reassert the value of higher education in building a prosperous and healthy society and the importance of fearless inquiry and civil discussion."
Meanwhile, Provost Joyce McConnell brought the Board up to date on various academic and student activities, including student and administration response to the recent presidential executive orders and potential impact on students and faculty.
"We held an informational forum on Monday, Jan. 30, in the Mountainlair regarding the recent travel ban," she said. "A vigil in support of our students and faculty from the targeted countries was held later that same night. Both events were extremely well-attended and received.
"Since then, Dr. William Brustein and his team in the Office of Global Affairs have been taking the lead on providing both information and support to our affected campus community members. Many WVU faculty members are available to discuss issues related to the Executive Order and offer help and support to international students. They offer expertise in fields of international law, refugee and asylum law, international strategy to higher education, immigration services, national security analyses, domestic and foreign policy, economics of terrorism and more."
She also noted:
· National Jurist ranked WVU College of Law second in the country for law schools with the greatest community impact
· There has been significant improvement in retention of full-time freshmen engineering students. For fall 2016, the number of first-time full-time freshman engineering students on probation at the end of the term is fewer than 100, representing only 10 percent of the student population.
· The search for a new Chief Information Officer has begun, and the initial applicant pool revealed a lot of interest.
· Travis Stimeling, an assistant professor of music history in the School of Music, has received a $50,400 fellowship from the NEH to document the history of musicians and record production in Nashville from 1955 to 1973 during country music’s “Nashville Sound” era.
· The Governor’s School for Entrepreneurship, a residential summer program for 60 students entering their sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school, will be coming to WVU this summer.
McConnell also introduced Mindy Walls, assistant vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation, to discuss the University's initiatives in those areas.
"West Virginia University has a robust applied Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship ecosystem that offers multiple resources to students, faculty, staff and community members aspiring to creatively think, learn and succeed," she said.
She listed multiple areas in the University, including the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the College of Business and Economics, the LaunchLab, Health Science Innovation Center, Media Innovation Center in the Reed College of Media, the newly opened Women's Business Center and many other programs.
In other action:
· Approved creation of a bachelor's of science degree in health informatics and information management with an undergraduate certificate in the School of Medicine at WVU's Morgantown campus.
· Approved reorganization in the School of Dentistry to create a separate Department of Dental Hygiene.
The next meeting is scheduled for April 21 in Morgantown.
CONTACT: University Relations/Communications