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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — WVU President Gordon Gee addressed a litany of topics during his 2018 State of the University Address Tuesday, including student debt, declining funds from the Legislature, and the future of all American higher education.

“In a Pew Research Center survey just recently put out, only 40 percent of the respondents said the value for the money spent on higher education is good or excellent,” Gee said. “Ladies and gentlemen, that is an existential threat to all universities.”

The speech ran less than an hour Tuesday afternoon, as Gee also talked about issues closer to home.

“In West Virginia, which has the nation’s lowest workforce participation rate, employers have 20,000 jobs they can not fill because citizens lack sufficient training,” he said. “At WVU Beckley and at WVU Keyser, we are building two, three, and four year programs that are glide paths to our graduate programs in healthcare, engineering, and other fields.”

Gee later commented following his speech that WVU must view its collection of schools as one large statewide campus.

“Not Morgantown, not Beckley, not Kesyer,” he said. “The state is our campus, and we need to think about it in those kind of global, organic terms.”

He continued on that train of thought, suggesting that many schools across the country are too insular — living in a bubble of their own making.

“One of the problems that is happening with universities is the fact that they’ve become isolated and arrogant,” Gee said. “They think tha the world owes them a living. They think that they are smarter than anyone else.”

That, Gee said, is something that can’t continue; and at West Virginia University, he said it won’t under his watch.

Gee also commented on a number of other issues during the speech and during a question and answer session that followed, including a reference to the future of Greek Life at WVU.

“I know that today’s students can lead the way in solving their own biggest problems. Reigning in a small number of students whose increasingly negative behavior is damaging the reputation, the credibility, of all.”

The University rolled out a series of changes to Greek Life, including a moratorium on nearly all activities for 16 campus fraternities earlier this month.

Gee also reminded viewers, both in person and through the in-house webcast, that a well-rounded education is still important in the 21st century.

“American Democracy has always drawn it’s strength from citizens whose education is well-rounded and whose perspectives are wide ranging,” he said. “Without that kind of citizenry, we lose our ability to compete in the world economy and may even fail to sustain our democracy.”

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