Concord University News
For Immediate Release: 
Mar 08 2000

Athens, W.Va.

State College System Board of Directors - Position Paper on Higher Education Legislation

 

Introduction

The Board of Directors met Tuesday, March 7, 2000 and approved the following resolution:

RE: S.B. 653 and H.B. 4811

RESOLVED, That the State College System Board of Directors authorizes the chancellor to develop a white paper which addresses specific issues in the current higher education legislation and that it be distributed to the Legislature, the Governor, State College System presidents and the advisory councils of faculty, staff and students.

Funding

The NCHEMS report recommendation that additional funding from the Legislature must be appropriated before the proposed changes would be effective, should be honored. If new funds are not made available, the legislation should not be implemented. Therefore, the section of the Senate legislation that existed prior to being amended should be reinserted and a fiscal note added before it is considered for adoption.

The colleges and universities are currently funded at 77% of their peers in the SREB states. The first order of business for the Legislature should be to attain some progress toward 100% of the regional average. Then, and only then, should major legislation be proposed or adopted.

Governing Structure and Stability

The present system with two boards, each with a distinctive role consisting of institutions with similar missions has operated efficiently and has provided leadership and stability to West Virginia higher education. The NCHEMS report did not recommend a change in higher education governance. NCHEMS officials stated repeatedly during the early stages of their study that governance changes should be considered only if their findings established that existing governance structure was the primary impediment to progress. Most states have chosen the path of coordination and centralization within a "system" framework.

Local Boards and Lack of Personnel Policies

If the two board system is to be eliminated, then the Policy Board/Commission should be formed as a governing entity. Local governing boards would require more institutional resources to maintain. In addition, lack of a central control for personnel would create inequitable and inconsistent personnel policies which would result in numerous grievances, etc. In this case, size is an asset not a liability in terms of management.

Community Colleges

The proposed legislation still does not resolve the community college issue. Inconsistencies continue to exist with the structure and the institutional alignments. Specifically, some institutions retain their component model while others are mandated to create separately accredited community college entities. The Legislature should make a decision to adopt a comprehensive "one system arrangement" for community and technical colleges and/or retain the current system of freestanding and component institutions.

Graduate Education

The Legislature should not get involved in determining who offers or delivers graduate education. The decision should be left to institutions and/or governing boards, as is the situation in existing statutory provisions.

Capital Projects

The Board of Directors endorses the concept of developing guidelines for capital project allocations.

Master Plan for Higher Education

A coordinated, statewide master plan needs to be developed with institutional compacts which are consistent with the statewide plan and the goals of this legislation.

Conclusion

The Board of Directors believes that the current governance structure works remarkably well under difficult fiscal constraints. Last year's appropriation was lost when the Governor instituted a 3% hold back due to state fiscal problems.

Higher education doesn't need major reconstructive surgery. What it needs is adequate funding and a period of stability. Legislation such as that being proposed by both the House and Senate is likely to result in chaos and disorder for at least two transitional years; years that West Virginia higher education cannot afford to squander.

The value added by multi-campus system boards are many. They add up to what sociologist Jane Coleman has called "social capital" - the ability of people to work together for common purposes in groups and organizations. The accumulation of social capital has, in fact, very tangible economic assets. This is the reason that "systems of higher education" have been developed.

The more rules that are created, the lower the trust level. System staff can often head-off financial and academic problems by early intervention before they become a public issue and the subject of legislative intervention.

There are many great and noble purposes behind S.B. 653 and H.B. 4811. There is apprehension and anxiety about major change. This translates into a lack of confidence by those we must rely on to do the labors of the proposed legislation. We need that confidence. We need employees and students to embrace change. We need a process whereby orientation as to change can occur rationally, whereby consensus can develop and whereby confidence can be built to do the labor of the legislation as we would want it to be done. The Board of Directors does not believe this can happen in the next three days, or even the next week.

For more information, call 1-304-558-0699.

-CC-
 

PO BOX 1000, VERMILLION ST., ATHENS, WV 24712.