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W.Va. higher education stats trending upward, chancellor says


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  – Remedial courses ended up harming college students as much as helping them, so the Higher Education Policy Commission changed its policy to correct that problem.

“We called it the quicksand of higher education,” HEPC Chancellor Paul Hill told the West Virginia Board of Education on Thursday, Nov. 9. “Only 13 percent of students who took the remedial courses ever graduated. That was unacceptable to me.”

Hill made his comments to the board as he gave his update on the state’s higher education initiative.

He said students who were unprepared for the academic requirements of college used up financial aid for remedial classes that provided them with no credits. So, the HEPC eliminated the no-credit classes and instead enrolled students in credit classes and provides support, he said.

Hill told the state school board the college-going rate in West Virginia is creeping up, but it’s not high enough. At present, about 30 percent of West Virginians have a two- or four-year degree or have other training after high school, but projections show that number should be around 51 percent to meet the needs of the economy.

Last year, the state’s public colleges and universities awarded 18,521 two- and four-year degrees, Hill said.

“We’ve been breaking the record every year,” but it’s still not enough, he said.

On the bright side, the number of STEM degrees awarded is up, student loan default rates are falling, retention rates are up and one-third of students who graduate have no student loan debt, Hill said.

When asked about the Promise scholarship program, which is administered by the HEPC, Hill said about 53 percent of its recipients are in the West Virginia work force four years after high school graduation. But many Promise recipients go on to graduate school, law school or medical school, Hill said. Thus, seven years after high school graduation, about 80 percent of Promise recipients are working in the state, he said.

Also at the meeting, Terry Harless, the board’s chief financial officer, said the board will ask for less money in state aid for the 2018-19 school year than it is receiving this year. All agencies submit their budget requests for the coming fiscal year to the governor by Sept. 1, Harless said. The school funding formula is based on enrollment during the previous school year, but the board will not have final enrollment figures for this year tabulated until around Dec. 15, at which time it will revise its budget request, Harless said.

The amount of money the board has received from the state aid formula has declined by about $44 million in the past two years because of declining enrollment, Harless said.

Amy Willard, the board’s executive director of school finance, said declining enrollment will likely lead to 137 fewer teachers funded by the state aid formula next school eyar.

Willard also said five of the state’s 55 county school systems ran deficits last year. This year that number is down to two, she said.

Staff Writer Jim Ross can be reached at 304-395-3483 or email at [email protected]

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