INSTITUTE, W.Va. — The top man at West Virginia State University is beaming after the 2019 regular Legislative Session.
President Anthony Jenkins noted for the first time in the history of West Virginia State, a full state match has been approved to drawdown full funding from the federal government for a land grant institution.
“This is a historic moment. We get our full state match for the first time in the history of this institution,” said Jenkins. “We have been fighting this battle for more than 20 years. After years and years of failed attempts, I am honored and proud we got it through this year.”
Jenkins spent a lot of time at the state Capitol during the session visiting with lawmakers and working to educate them on the facts surrounding State’s mission. As a Land Grant University, federal funding is available every year but must be matched by the state dollar for dollar. According to Jenkins, the matching money had never been at 100 percent. Although there were likely a myriad of reasons, Jenkins said the biggest obstacle was perception.
“Many folks did not realize we operate in 38 of 55 counties and we help over 20,000 West Virginians every year,” Jenkins explained. “For a university of our size, that’s extremely impressive.”
The legislature appropriated the full $2.9 million for West Virginia State. The appropriation will draw down another $2.9 million from Washington for work at the school in the area of outreach and research.
West Virginia State is one of two land grant schools in the state, the other is West Virginia University. Jenkins made full funding of the match a priority and noted to lawmakers it’s an important budget benchmark
“This is federal law and the state cannot purposely and knowingly violate federal law,” said Jenkins. “We felt that was somewhat the case because you were funding one land grant institution as you should and underfunding the other, which is us.”
But, Jenkins said he found a welcoming environment in the halls of the statehouse. Each lawmaker with whom he visited was receptive and after discussions was supportive. He met with all members of the Senate and many in the House. But it was leg work ahead of the session, which led to one of the most important aspects of their fight, getting the Governor’s support. The funding was actually included in the budget presented by Governor Justice during the State of the State Address and was never removed.
Jenkins said there was also progress on getting their funding line item into state code. Although the legislation did not pass, he’s confident it will have the momentum to win approval in 2020.
“I’m confident we can continue to put forward a compelling argument that we move from a year by year appropriation to a full-time commitment,” he said. “We want to do it without having to revisit this every year.”