CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee took on the mantra of a football coach taking the reins of a fledgling program in search of a victory on the field Tuesday at the state capital as lawmakers consider cuts to higher education while they craft the state budget.
“We’ve got to change our culture and it has to start now,” Gee stated very matter-of-factly on Metronews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval.
“The culture needs to be one of what I call a post-audit mentality. Our mentality in this state is what I call a pre-audit mentality. We’re going to spend a million dollars to prevent somebody from stealing $10,000. We need to spend a million dollars on educating our people and making a difference. Let’s not spend all this on bureaucratic nonsense in creating a state where no one will take a risk. That, I think, is the challenge of this legislature.”
Tuesday was WVU Day at the legislature and Gee along with other university administrators were at the capital making their pitch to lawmakers to spare higher education from more funding cuts. Gee has previously pointed out that WVU has already seen its state funding reduced by $96 million over the last five years. He contends lawmakers need to find ways to spend more on higher education, not less. Gee believes funding for higher education should not be viewed as just expenditure but it should be considered an investment for the state.
“For every dollar the state gives the university, we now return ten, in terms of tax revenue and a variety of other things. Secondly, we are the economic engine of the state. We need to educate our citizens so the jobs will stay here and the jobs will flow to us,” Gee stated.
“The university is not only a direct return but it is an indirect return in terms of attracting business and industry and that is the business strategy.”
While Gee admits nobody wants to see higher taxes, he believes the citizens of West Virginia want to see the state turnaround and insists investing in the state’s colleges and universities is the way to stop the downward trend.
However, the biggest challenge, Gee believes, is changing the “We’ve always done it this way” entity under the capitol dome.