CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice says he wants a Blue Ribbon Commission for Four-Year Higher Education.

Justice made the announcement in a brief Thursday afternoon release.

“Our West Virginia colleges and universities are so critical to our communities, and the continued erosion of their stability deeply concerns me,” Justice stated.

“My hope is that every possible solution will be considered and evaluated, all colleges and universities will be consulted, and that the Commission will find the right solution for our higher education system in West Virginia.”

The statement didn’t elaborate on examples of erosion of stability.

The Governor’s Office said the commission will be officially created by executive order and is expected to be signed by this coming Monday.

Justice has asked the commission to give regular updates and reports and has mandated the work be completed by this December’s interim meetings of the state Legislature.

The governor said West Virginia’s colleges and universities need to stand up for their continued stability and their role in serving communities.

“These colleges and universities are a lifeline for the students they serve and represent the future of West Virginia,” he said. “We must find a more efficient means of ensuring that these colleges and universities stay in the communities they serve today.”

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Paul Hill

Higher Education Chancellor Paul Hill, earlier today, had heard talk of a commission being established.

“That is probably a positive thing, something I would participate in,” Hill said earlier today. “We’re all about innovation, all about trying to move forward and do things in a new and improved way if that’s at all possible. I’m very open to that idea, but no one has approached me about it.”

Paul Espinosa

House Education Chairman Paul Espinosa had also heard similar talk of a commission to examine higher education in West Virginia.

Espinosa, R-Jefferson, said he has no objection but wants to be sure such an effort wouldn’t circumvent a legislative directive to look at higher education funding.

“While I have no objection to the formation of a commission to examine these issues, and in fact support a careful examination if the governor so directs, I’d oppose any effort to circumvent the legislative directive contained in HB 2815 that required the HEPC to present a proposed higher education funding formula to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2018, a directive that has not yet been completely fulfilled,” Espinosa said.