GLENVILLE, W.Va. — As those in higher education await the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission, many are split on how they see it affecting West Virginia’s colleges and universities.
Glenville State College President Dr. Tracy Pellett is optimistic that some good may come out of it, he said during an appearance Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“Blue Ribbon panels and commissions and things like that you kind of shake your head at a little bit because they come out with recommendations that sometimes they’re followed and many times not,” Pellett said. “I think this is a good time to pause somewhat and create this sort of mechanism simply because we were going down a really fast road in terms of a funding formula that really was not well-vetted and well-discussed among all the presidents and frankly all the schools that were in it.”
While presidents of other entities in the state have said they felt this was a “hostile takeover” by West Virginia University, Pellett disagrees. In fact, he feels WVU President E. Gordon Gee is fighting for the state’s smaller institutions.
“What Gordon is really trying to do in his influence in this Blue Ribbon Commission is frankly to say, ‘Hey hold on here. Pause a second before we just redistribute a small amount of money to eight schools and take it from the other three. Let’s pause here and let’s look at the bigger issue of funding and the way we’re doing that,'” he said.
Other universities have yet to voice opinions on the matter, Pellett said because they’re “thrilled to death” to see their funding increase.
“You can’t rob from those institutions and just redistribute out to others,” Pellett added. “That’s not a real fair way to do it.”
But Pellett’s optimism comes from his hope that discussion among the Blue Ribbon Commission will also bring the realization that more funding is needed in higher education.
And furthermore, that more can be done with that money by simply using it more efficiently.
“We’ve been doing everything, frankly going a different direction than all the other institutions by cutting tuition, really becoming streamlined,” Pellett said. “Frankly I would say, I don’t need a Blue Ribbon panel to tell me the best practice, we’re following the best practice.”
Glenville State gained national attention in 2017 when the institution announced that not only would tuition not be rising for the upcoming academic year but instead would be cut. Pellett is confident that’s something that any institution can achieve.
“The state gave the same appropriation this year as last year. Everybody else raised tuition,” he said. “I mean, you’ve got to ask yourself, why is that? What’s going on that we can’t become more efficient and expect our colleges to do that?”
While the Blue Ribbon Commission is a start to see where individual colleges and universities can be more efficient, Pellett said what worked best for Glenville State was a planning and prioritization process analyzing the school’s academic programs.
“We know there are programs and specializations we’re moving away from and then moving toward other programs and areas that our employers are telling us, ‘We have to have more of this. We need more of that.’ For us, criminal justice, teacher education, land resource management. Those are our sweet spots,” he said. “Now should we offer that history degree or those other degrees? Yeah, I think we can do it as long as it is manageable within the finances of what we are doing.”
Going forward, Pellett remains very confident in Glenville State, which he said is seeing enrollment increase while the rest of the state is seeing their numbers drop.
“You’re going to have to, as an institution, follow some of these best practices in the way that you serve the populations and reach out and partner with business and do things, frankly, more intentionally than you’ve ever done it,” he said.