A renewed focus on student success at West Virginia University is paying dividends.
“Our four-year graduation rate rose 12% – amounting to 500 more students graduating in four years, getting into the job market sooner and reducing their debt. This is a huge improvement,” Maryanne Reed, provost and vice president for academic affairs, told members during Friday’s Board of Governors meeting as she discussed the performance of freshman cohorts beginning in 2012.
As four-year graduation rates rose resulting in fewer returning students than predicted, the University’s freshmen retention and upper-class undergraduate persistence rates, following a national trend, were down slightly against current budget projections. The combination created a revenue shortfall from tuition and fees of approximately $14.5 million.
“Deans and administrators worked with us to close the gap through reductions in discretionary spending. In some cases, they also considered a hiring delay for open positions where possible,” said Paula Congelio, vice president for finance and chief financial officer. “We are also re-evaluating all capital projects to determine whether any could be delayed.”
WVU is also designing a new budget model which will focus on revenue generating units that allocates revenue and expenses more clearly and is aligned with the University’s strategic objectives. The FY24 budget will be based on the new model and factor in the state’s new higher education funding formula, according to Rob Alsop, vice president for strategic initiatives.
The University will move forward with a new electronic research administration system as part of the overall Modernization Program.
And as the Big 12 Conference negotiates a new media rights agreement, Board members authorized University administrators to extend WVU’s grant of telecast rights to the Conference through June 2031 in support of those efforts.
“The new Big 12 media rights contract set to begin in 2025 will make a positive impact on the conference,” Director of Athletics and Associate Vice President Shane Lyons said. “With the four new members coming into the league, the new media rights deal provides financial stability for the conference and ensures its Power 5 status. Overall, this new contract is a win for the Big 12 Conference.”
The Board approved amendments to BOG Rule 1.4 — Ethics, Conflicts of Interest and Outside Consulting Arrangements after two recent public comment periods. The proposed revisions were to clarify that faculty members, as part of their University job duties, cannot count engaging in activities that are adverse, in a formal legal proceeding, to the State or West Virginia University.
“Under the revised Rule, a faculty member can still engage in these activities, but through outside consulting process. In other words, faculty members can do these activities, but on their own time as private citizens,” Vice President and General Counsel Stephanie Taylor told Board members ahead of their vote. “As with all outside consulting arrangements, there is an approval process. However, the Rule provides that the University will not take viewpoint, or the content of the position being taken, into consideration when reviewing outside consulting arrangements for approval.”
Activities of the WVU legal clinics are specifically excluded from the Rule.
The annual classified staff report highlighted a variety of Staff Council initiatives including scholarships for classified staff and their children, blood and coat drives, as well as certificate and awards programs.
Friday’s meeting coincided with Veterans Day, and Chair Tom Jones took the opportunity to recognize fellow Board members Kevin Craig and Rick Pill who are both U.S. Army veterans.
Jerry Wood, director of WVU’s Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs, outlined ways the University serves veterans, active military members and their families on campus. He highlighted some of the program’s achievements since it launched in 2018, including being ranked nationally in the top 20 “Best for Vets: Colleges” by Military Times Publications and receiving the 2023 Military Friendly® Employer designation.
Additionally, President Gordon Gee noted a partnership between Extension and Operation Welcome Home helping veterans around the state gain career knowledge and tools through agriculture.
The next regular BOG meeting is scheduled for Dec. 16.
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