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House gives unanimous approval to higher ed funding formula bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates passed its version of the higher education funding formula bill Wednesday.

HB 4008 was approved on a 98-0 vote.

Joe Ellington

The bill gives the state Higher Education Policy Commission authority to work with the state Council for Community and Technical Colleges to establish a performance-based funding formula model that will be used beginning in the fiscal year 2024 funding cycle.

“The funding formula model shall emphasize outcomes focused on student success and institutional mission achievement,” House Education Committee Chairman Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, said. “It shall include a range of variables that shall be weighted in a manner that corresponds to each institution’s mission and provides incentives for productivity improvements.”

Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, who spoke in favor of the bill Wednesday, said when he first arrived at the legislature in 2013 he soon noticed there was not set way to fund the state’s colleges and universities.

Paul Espinosa

“I questioned why various institutions were funded differently than others. After repeated questioning I came to the conclusion there really wasn’t a rational, fair, transparent basis on how our higher education institutions were funded,” Espinosa said.

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, lauded the work of the HEPC and 19 campus presidents who came to an agreement on a funding formula.

“It’s not a punitive system but it is a system that encourages each of the schools to push hard to have their students complete their academic program,” Rowe said.

State Higher Education Chancellor Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker thanked the House for its unanimous vote.

Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker

“We’ve worked collaboratively with colleges and universities for the past two years to get to this point. We’re looking forward to a more predictable way of funding higher education that centers around student achievement and the state’s economic priorities,” Tucker told MetroNews. “Generating consensus among multiple institutions with varying missions was never an easy task, but the model is crafted in a way that takes all of their individual strengths into consideration. This really is an incredible achievement for public higher education in West Virginia, and we’re grateful to members of the House for their support.”

The state Senate passed a similar bill, SB 550, last week. The main difference between the two versions is exemption language in the Senate bill. The provision would allow 4-year schools to gain less oversight from the state in academic programs they want to begin if an individual school receives less than 40% of its operating expenses from the state.

The final approval of the funding formula legislation could hinge or whether the House agrees to the Senate’s exemption language or the Senate agrees to remove it.

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