State’s colleges, universities have fingers crossed on stimulus funds

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The latest stimulus package being proposed in Congress by U.S. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell includes $30 billion for higher education across the U.S.

West Virginia Higher Education Chancellor Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker said Thursday the state’s colleges and universities would welcome additional funding.

Chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker

“If this goes through in some form that would really change the picture,” Trucker said during an appearance Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Tucker has confirmed on several occasions during the past few weeks that some of the state’s smaller institutions are in a major financial bind because of the pandemic and some could face shutting their doors if there’s a significant drop in enrollment. She said new federal funds would help. She said how much of a help and to which colleges remains to be seen.

“Until we figure out what these federal funds are and what they’re going to to look like, it’s hard to know what those colleges may be,” Tucker said.

Justice promises help with cost of testing

Gov. Jim Justice met with Tucker and 27 college and university presidents earlier this week. Justice said at his Wednesday media briefing that he realizes COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff will be a financial burden for several schools. He pledged the state’s help for some.

Gov. Jim Justice

“We’re absolutely going to be able to push some extra dollars out to be able to do that and really help our smaller schools to be able to pull that off,” Justice said. “We’re going to make it safe for our teachers and our service personnel and we can’t do that–we’re going to back up. The same we’re going to do for our colleges and universities.”

McConnell’s plan includes $70 billion for K-12 schools.

Tucker said there’s no good time for a pandemic but the timing of COVID-19 has served as a double punch for the institutions.

“Higher-ed (funding) has been cut for several years now and our enrollment has declined. So we’re just trying to make sure that we can do everything we can to sure up those institutions in case there’s is some precipitous enrollment decline,” Tucker said.

Bluefield State adjusting

Bluefield State College formed an advisory team in April to begin working on campus reentry plans. BSC President Rob Capehart said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” he’s confident the campus will be able to welcome students back next month.

Bluefield State President Rob Capehart

Capehart said they’ve been able to put some of their plan in effect the last three weeks with some students on campus for labs.

“It’s allowed us to kind of fine-tune the protocol that we have in place and so when we come back in August we feel comfortable that we can do our best to protect the health and safety of our students, our faculty and our staff,” Capehart said.

Bluefield State’s plan includes putting students in cohorts so the same groups of students have the same class schedules. Capehart said they’ll also be social distant measures.

“A class of 32 will be split so that 16 will say come in on a Tuesday and the other 16 will be online and then on Thursday they’ll flip,” Capehart said.

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