BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Subcommittees of the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Commission are looking at alternatives to the HEPC, to better assist the needs of higher education institutions in the Mountain State.

Drew Payne, chair of the Governance subcommittee, said the new group would be similar to the Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) with a few key differences.

“It would be a service provider, it wouldn’t be a governing board or another level of government over the boards that are at the schools,” Payne said. “The legislation has empowered those. Let those boards make the decisions they need. They don’t need another rubber stamp from the Higher Education Policy Commission, so if they make decisions, they live and die by those decisions.”

The new group would then provide additional services to the schools, “with federal funding, federal grant applications, collecting data, reporting to the legislature,” Payne said. “That type of thing all would stay the same.”

Payne said he feels the move would benefit the state’s colleges by increasing efficiency.

“We’re going to put something together that we hope will be more efficient and with less bureaucracy and really empower the boards at the individual colleges,” he said. “That’s our main purpose, is just to look at the structure of how it’s evolved, how we’ve gotten here and then to purpose changes.”

Even though two members of the HEPC sit on the Blue Ribbon Commission, Payne believes he has the support to see this move forward.

“They want us to pursue and develop the program, so that’s what we’re going to do over the next month is put more detail into that and how we see that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gary White, chair of the Finance subcommittee, said his subcommittee was given the responsibility to examine and also to consider alternatives for the current funding formula of the HEPC.

Since the Blue Ribbon Commission’s last meeting, White said his subcommittee met on two occasions, coming to the recommendation that funding be provided in two tranches.

“The first would be a system of providing a system of equity funding to the regional institutions that would bring them back closer to a base budget that would compensate them for some of the cuts that have occurred over the last several years,” White said. “There’s about $60 million that’s been taken out of the system over the last six or seven years.”

White said the second tranche of the subcommittee’s responsibility is to work together as a committee and offer to the full commission a model to be used going forward to fund higher education in West Virginia.

“More than likely it’s going to be a hybrid of a number of formulas that either have been used in West Virginia or are being used in other states,” he said. “We want to learn what’s the best model and what model fits West Virginia and its institutions the best, and we will do that over the next month. We’ll do that research, and we’ll come back to the Blue Ribbon Commission with a recommendation for a permanent funding formula.”

While White is optimistic on finding a successful funding option, finding the funds, he said, is a different story.

“Whatever we recommend, the legislature and the governor will have the ultimate decision as to what is done going forward,” he said. “We’re just providing our thoughts as to how that might be accomplished.”

Mike Farrell, chair of the collaboration subcommittee, gave his update to the full commission Tuesday via conference call.