Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY COMMISSION ; Report: State Should Dissolve HEPC

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

HIGHER EDUCATION POLICY COMMISSION ; Report: State Should Dissolve HEPC

Article excerpt

Almost a year after a legislative audit recommended divesting power from the state's Higher Education Policy Commission and the Council for Community and Technical College Education, the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia also suggests in a new report to drastically reorganize the state's system of higher education and how it's funded. The conservative think tank's report suggests disbanding the HEPC and the CTCE and to tie schools' share of state appropriations in part to how the schools perform. It also suggests moving the state's public colleges and universities from "state institutions to "state-supported institutions that operate as private, nonprofit entities.

More than 30 states already fund their colleges through some sort of performance-based formula at least in part, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. West Virginia lawmakers and higher education officials have considered adopting similar policies in recent years.

"For the most part, however, an institution's state appropriation follows a pattern that is rooted in the amounts determined in the late 1990s, the report reads. "The lack of a logical method for the distribution of state funding to each institution rests with the failure of state policy to set forth a clearly defined philosophical purpose for subsidization.

The Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia is listed as a member of the State Policy Network on the network's website. The network is a nationwide federation of more than 60 think tanks that promote conservative and free-market ideas, according to the Wall Street Journal. The foundation has been funded by the Koch Brothers, according to previous Gazette-Mail reports.

The report was authored by Robin Capehart and Raymond Keener. Capehart is the former president of West Liberty University who last year agreed to pay $5,000 in fines after facing 13 counts of violating the state's Ethics Act for using his university's resources to help his privately owned independent film production company, according to previous Gazette-Mail reports.

In addition to Keener's role at the think thank, he is an associate professor at Marshall University's department of accountancy and legal environment, according to the school's website.

Capehart and Keener's report details previous efforts to tie a college's funding to its performance but says they were unsuccessful or not followed. It references a 2011 HEPC report that said "higher education finance policy in West Virginia lacked clear philosophical direction for the better part of the past decade.

"At the time, it was proposed that any funds allocated based on performance would be above the institutions' base funding, wrote HEPC Chancellor Paul Hill in an emailed statement. "Ultimately, the Legislature decided to table the initiative due to concerns over reductions in the state budget (which indeed have come to fruition).

Hill said that a worsening economic climate halted discussion of the idea among legislators and among leaders within the state's system of higher education. Changes never came.

Capehart said he didn't necessarily favor one way of funding, but said the legislature should outline why it subsidizes higher education and tie funding to that reason.

The report proposes three scenarios to fund higher education: to support the general operations of the school, to subsidize in-state students' cost of attendance and rewarding colleges with extra funding for their successes.

The report proposes:

* To support the general operations of a college, the state should award a share of state appropriations determined by the total hours undergraduates at a school are enrolled in. …

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