CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia University must reduce spending by $45 million by 2020 to survive and thrive in the state’s economy, university President E. Gordon Gee announced Monday in his State of the University address.
“This is not a problem, this is an opportunity,” Gee said.
WVU lost $30 million of its base budget in recent years, with only 14 percent of the budget coming from state funds now. During Gee’s first WVU presidency, from 1981-85, the state funding for the university was between 60 percent and 70 percent, he said.
“Even if we had all of the money we needed, I would insist we still be re-allocating our resources,” Gee said. “I have tried the strategy ‘woe is me,’ and let me tell you, it does not work. What does work is accepting only one goal — to improve quality.”
The university will look at strategic budget constraints and assess the its strengths and weaknesses among programs. Specifically, Gee said, WVU will continue improving the areas of education, health care and prosperity for West Virginia.
“I do not want to see a single bright, young West Virginian leave our state to attend college,” he said. “And as One WVU, we must leverage all of our statewide resources — from Morgantown, Keyser, Martinsburg, Charleston and Beckley — to recruit and retain the best and brightest.”
To be a world-class institution, Gee said, the university needs strong English and math departments. It also must figure out what it shouldn’t be doing and how to prioritize that, the president said.
“Higher education is going through a massive transformation. Some institutions will survive, some will not,” Gee said. “And we have a choice: We can be at the forefront leading the change, we can be the architects of our own success, or we can be left behind.”
Gee also wants re-evaluation in the way WVU recruits and recognizes faculty and staff. This would be accomplished by re-recruiting the existing staff and changing 10-year reward structures, he said.
“We have wonderful faculty who are teaching faculty, and they’re given that designation, yet we only pay them 80 percent of what we pay other faculty,” Gee said. “There should be no differentiation.”
Gee also said he hopes to improve the state’s economy by leveraging the university’s expertise for new avenues of economic development.
“Now, I realize that may sound daunting,” he said, “but I assure you, it’s an area where we can be a good partner.”
The fall freshmen class is the largest in the university’s history, at 6,000-plus students, and it also has the highest grade point average — 3.7, on average.
The university received 70 percent more applications from underrepresented students, and it increased the number of admitted underrepresented freshmen by 27 percent.
Reach Laura Haight at [email protected], 304-348-4843 or follow @laurahaight_ on Twitter.