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§18B-1D-3. State vision for public higher education; findings; establishment of objectives.

(a) The Legislature finds that availability of high-quality post-secondary education is so important to the well-being of the citizens of West Virginia that it is in the best interests of the state to focus attention on areas of particular concern and within those areas to specify objectives and priorities that must be addressed by two thousand twenty. The purpose of these objectives and priorities is to achieve the broad-based goals for public higher education established in section one-a, article one of this chapter. Areas of special concern to the Legislature include economic and workforce development; education access and affordability; innovation; student preparation; degree and/or program completion; intra- and inter-system cooperation and collaboration; research; and teaching and learning.

(1) Economic and workforce development. --

(A) Diversifying and strengthening the economy of the state;

(B) Providing incentives to systems and institutions to focus attention on those courses and programs which create and retain jobs in the state, especially among the emerging high-technology, knowledge-based businesses and industries.

(2) Access and affordability. --

(A) Maintaining geographic access while eliminating unnecessary duplication;

(B) Enhancing education opportunities for the widest range of state citizens:

(i) By establishing tuition and fee levels for in-state students that do not inhibit access to public education nor cause students to incur excessive debt. This is particularly important in West Virginia where about two-thirds of all students attending college are enrolled in public higher education institutions and where families devote a very large share of their incomes to pay the cost of education. The share of costs paid by families remains very high even after adjusting for the impact of financial aid; and

(ii) By establishing tuition and fee rates for out-of-state students at levels which, at a minimum, cover the full cost of instruction unless doing so is inconsistent with a clearly delineated public policy goal established by the Legislature, the commission or the council.

(iii) Innovation. -- Devise innovative programs, delivery modes, partnerships, research initiatives, curricula and pedagogy to achieve the needs of the state and its citizens and carry out the mission and objectives of the state institutions of higher education. Methods include aligning entrepreneurial efforts, research and partnerships with established state goals.

(iv) Student preparation. -- Ensure that potential students are academically prepared for college and that graduates are adequately prepared for careers or further education.

(V) Degree and/or program completion. -- Despite significant improvement over the past decade, fewer than twenty percent of state residents hold a bachelor's degree. This shortage of highly educated, highly qualified workers substantially limits the state's ability to compete in the knowledge-based economy.

(vi) Collaboration and cooperation. -- Deliver education services to the extent possible through collaboration, coordination and brokering, with particular emphasis on the need for a seamless relationship between public and post-secondary education.

(vii) Research. -- Develop a greater research capacity within public higher education to enhance West Virginia in the eyes of the larger economic and education community, develop greater specialized expertise in high technology and policy fields, create more employment opportunities within the state and provide a basis for improved capacity to compete in the new economy through research focused on meeting state needs.

(viii) Teaching and learning. -- Develop admission and exit standards for students and emphasize professional staff development, program assessment and evaluation and other incentives to improve teaching and learning. Ensure access to stable and continuing graduate-level programs in every region of the state, particularly in STEM subject areas and teacher education related to teaching within a subject area to improve teacher quality.

(b) Vision 2020: Objectives for public higher education. -- In view of the findings outlined in subsection (a) of this section, the Legislature hereby establishes the following objectives to be addressed as highest priorities beginning on the effective date of this article through development of compacts and/or implementation plans between and among members of the education partnership as provided in subsection (e), section one-a, article one of this chapter. The following is the legislative vision for the years two thousand eight through two thousand twenty:

(1) Objective. -- Develop a state-level facilities plan and funding mechanism to reduce the obligation of students and parents to bear the cost of higher education capital projects and facilities maintenance.

(A) Problem statement. --

(i) West Virginia is one of the very few states in the nation which does not address higher education capital project and facilities maintenance needs through a statewide plan.

(ii) The burden of paying for capital projects and deferred maintenance is placed on students and their families through collection of capital fees at the institution level and contributes significantly to the poor grade West Virginia receives each year in the category of "Affordability" on "Measuring Up: The National Report Card on Higher Education".

(iii) Net college costs for low- and lower middle-income students to attend state community and technical colleges and four-year colleges and universities average approximately forty-five percent of their annual family income.

(iv) The high cost of capital fees contributes directly to the amount of debt incurred by students during their college years and the necessity to repay student loans severely limits career choices and areas of residence after graduation.

(B) Expected outcomes. -- Success in meeting this goal can be measured in part by benchmarks which include the following:

(i) Development by the council and commission of a compact with elected state officials to fund a significant portion of higher education capital project needs from dedicated state revenues;

(ii) Development by the council and commission of a system to establish priorities for institution capital projects in a manner that is consistent with state public policy goals for higher education;

(iii) Implementation of facilities maintenance plans by institutions to ensure that maintenance needs are not deferred inappropriately;

(iv) Efficient use of existing classroom and other space by institutions:

(I) New capital funding is applied effectively to projects at institutions that have a demonstrated need for new facilities and major renovations; and

(II) The cost of operating and maintaining the facilities and physical plants of institutions are appropriate for the size and mission of the institution; and

(v) Capital and facilities maintenance planning that gives careful consideration to the recommendations arising from the study mandated by section nine, article fourteen of this chapter.

(2) Objective. -- Increase academic rigor and improve learning at higher education institutions.

(A) Problem statement. -- West Virginia has made significant progress on certain indicators within the category of student learning, but lags far behind national and regional averages on others.

(i) The state compares very well in workforce preparation as reflected in professional licensure examinations, ranking among the top five states in the country. More West Virginia graduates take these examinations than is typical nationally and the passage rate is at the national average.

(ii) The state also ranks well above the national average passage rate on the state teacher's examination when compared to other states; however, there is serious cause for concern when the state is compared to the national benchmark in preparing students for graduate study.

(I) West Virginia ranks more than fifty percentage points below the national average in preparing students to take and pass graduate admissions examinations.

(II) Fewer West Virginia graduates take these examinations than is typical nationally and the proportion earning competitive scores is only about seventy-five percent of the national average.

(B) Expected outcomes. -- Success in meeting this goal can be measured in part by benchmarks which include the following:

(i) State institutions of higher education develop or use existing nationally normed assessments of student learning outcomes. Data generated through these assessments are analyzed and the results applied by the institutions to improve the quality of undergraduate general education programs; and

(ii) Implementation plans at the system and institution levels are developed to improve student preparation for graduate study and to expand graduate and professional education, where appropriate.

(3) Objective. -- Increase the percentage of entering students who persist to receive a degree, a certificate or an industry-recognized credential.

(A) Problem statement. --

(i) This goal is particularly important to West Virginia where only about one person in five holds an associate degree or higher.

(ii) The lack of a well-trained workforce is reflected in the most recent score of forty-one received by the state on the nationally recognized New Economy Index which measures the extent to which a state is prepared to participate in knowledge-based industries. This low score places the state well below the national benchmark of sixty on the index.

(iii) State institutions of higher education have placed a greater emphasis on student recruitment than on student retention and completion. This strategy alone cannot be successful in meeting state needs for the following reasons:

(I) The number of state high school graduates is expected to decline over the next several years; therefore, institutions must improve their performance in retaining the students who enroll.

(II) West Virginia is among the leading states in the percentage of first-year students at community colleges who return for their second year and large percentages of freshmen at four-year colleges and universities return for their sophomore year; however, when compared with other states, only a small percentage of these students actually persist to earn a bachelor's degree or associate degree within six years.

(III) The state performs poorly on international comparisons of enrolled students who complete certificates or degrees, trailing behind other industrialized and even some third world nations.

(IV) While the state college-going rate has improved, most state institutions have made only marginal progress over the past decade in increasing the percentage of students who persist to obtain a degree or certificate.

(B) Expected outcomes. --

(i) Enhanced quality of life for West Virginians, including increased level of per capita income; and

(ii) Increased economic development opportunities by expanding existing high-technology and knowledge-based businesses and industries and attracting new ones which demand highly qualified professionals.

(4) Objective. -- State institutions of higher education, particularly community and technical colleges, make maximum effort to recruit and retain adults twenty-five years old or over.

(A) Problem statement. --

(i) The percentage of West Virginia's working-age adults enrolled part-time in college-level education or training is very low and the state has experienced one of the largest declines in the nation on this measure over the past twelve years.

(ii) A large part of preparing workers for the 21st Century and for a high-quality style of life hinges upon providing opportunity for adults to acquire a series of skill sets in addition to obtaining a degree or other credential.

(iii) A major focus for community and technical colleges is upon providing programs to upgrade employee skills through obtaining industry credentials. Currently, however, only certificate program degrees (one-year) and associate degrees (two-year) are counted for funding purposes even though other types of credentials often are as important in meeting workforce development goals as providing degree programs.

(B) Expected outcomes. --

(i) Provide programs of interest to nontraditional students, including those that afford them the opportunity to obtain certificates and credentials, enhance career development and acquire new skill sets;

(ii) Develop a high-visibility marketing program which makes adults aware of the opportunities available to them and assists them in entering or reentering the learning environment;

(iii) Provide for lower cost tuition and fee rates, particularly at the community and technical colleges, and/or greater access to financial aid for adult full- and part-time students.

(iv) Develop open admissions policies which provide opportunities for adults to participate in public post-secondary education beginning at any level of preparedness. Most working-age adults cannot or will not "go back to high school" in order to prepare themselves to participate in higher education.

(v) Tailor institutional policies to meet the needs of adults, recognizing that these individuals have responsibilities that are different from those of traditional-aged college students. High on this list of needs are flexible class schedules to accommodate work obligations and waiving dorm residency requirements.

(5) Objective. -- Provide incentives to state institutions of higher education to encourage emphasis on STEM courses and programs leading to degrees in the high-demand fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to encourage collaboration with public education to stimulate interest and prepare students to succeed in these fields.

(A) Problem statement. --

(i) STEM courses often are more expensive to deliver than traditional programs; therefore, institutions may be reluctant to start or expand programs in these areas because of anticipated cost;

(ii) Institutions have difficulty recruiting and retaining faculty members in STEM areas because of competition from surrounding states and other market forces;

(iii) There is insufficient communication between STEM teachers in public education, STEM faculty in higher education and professionals employed in STEM-related careers such as engineering;

(iv) Many students have not taken sufficiently rigorous high school courses to allow them to succeed in post-secondary STEM courses and programs. A large percentage of students enrolled in higher education STEM programs either withdraw from the institution or change majors within the first year; and

(v) The transition from high school to college is difficult for many high school students who lack a family role model to provide guidance relevant to the higher education experience.

(B) Expected outcomes. --

(i) Increased capacity for high quality instruction across public higher education;

(ii) Increased student access to high quality undergraduate and graduate research opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics;

(iii) Enhanced economic development opportunities through increased numbers of highly-qualified professionals available to business and industry;

(iv) Development of a consistent and effective forum for communication among STEM faculty in public and higher education and relevant professional communities to address the continuing needs of students, educators and industry;

(v) Increased percentage of high school students who have access to and take advantage of rigorous STEM courses;

(vi) Alignment of STEM curricula between public and higher education;

(vii) Development of a finance formula that gives greater weight to courses taken in high-cost disciplines and/or those that are critical to the state economy; and

(viii) Creation of a STEM coordinator position within the faculty of each state institution of higher education to provide outreach to secondary schools, to mentor freshman students and to collaborate with coordinators at other institutions. Because of the size of the student body, the two research universities may need to create coordinator positions specific to certain high-demand STEM disciplines such as engineering and computer science.

(6) Objective. -- Develop a stable funding stream for state institutions of higher education to pay for essential programs which are expensive to deliver, are in high demand and/or are critical to the state's capacity to replace an aging workforce as employees retire. This objective has a particular impact on community and technical colleges which deliver high-cost technical programs.

(A) Problem statement. --

(i) An educated and technically skilled workforce is vital to the state's ability to be competitive in the global marketplace. Currently, West Virginia's employers must struggle to find a sufficient number of highly qualified workers to fill the jobs they have available; and

(ii) The majority of technical occupations require the delivery of equipment-intensive, high-cost programs that state institutions of higher education, especially community and technical colleges, lack the capacity to provide.

(B) Expected outcomes. --

(i) State institutions delivering community and technical college education focus on expanding and/or implementing technical programs to meet the needs of high-demand, high-wage occupations;

(ii) Funding priorities for community and technical colleges focus on developing and maintaining high-cost technical programs;

(iii) Creation of a strategy to fund the replacement, upgrading and purchase of equipment to implement and/or maintain technical education programs; and

(iv) Support critical, noncredit programming by incorporating the number of contact hours delivered into a formula to distribute funding to community and technical colleges.

(7) Objective. -- Develop a mechanism to assure uniform delivery of community and technical college education for all regions of the state.

(A) Problem statement. -- The average education attainment rate in West Virginia lags eleven percent behind the national average in part because delivering education programs to the state's adult, place-bound and rural populations presents significant challenges.

(B) Expected outcomes. --

(i) All state citizens have access to a minimum of two years of college education regardless of their place of residence within the state.

(ii) The state institutions increase the innovative use of technology and distance education to provide general and technical education access in sparsely populated rural areas.

(iii) Creation of a seamless education system and uniform transfer of credits with special attention to transfers between community and technical colleges and four-year institutions;

(iv) Appropriate use of adjunct faculty; and

(v) Where feasible, use of facilities in public schools, technical centers and other public facilities as classroom space.

(8) Objective. -- Develop greater research capacity throughout public higher education, with a special focus on the state's two doctoral degree-granting universities.

(A) Problem statement. --

(i) West Virginia ranks near the bottom among all states in the amount of federal and privately funded sponsored research it receives. Historically, only the National Science Foundation's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR) has focused on building research capacity in the state, but if West Virginia is to benefit from the increased economic opportunity, better jobs and higher standard of living associated with more STEM professionals in the population, the state must invest more to build its research capacity; and

(ii) Low research capacity results in low levels of intellectual property creation, patenting and licensing of commercial property.

(B) Expected outcomes. --

(i) Partnering between and among higher education institutions in West Virginia and between state institutions and larger, resource-rich higher education institutions outside the state;

(ii) Developing an institutional and/or statewide research niche and focusing resources on research that contributes most to meeting state needs;

(iii) Leveraging scarce resources to make steady, targeted investments in research in niche areas where the state can be a real player at a competitive level;

(iv) Developing specific research expertise within the two state doctoral degree-granting universities to generate and analyze data to provide policy recommendations. The areas of focus include funding strategies for higher education, demographic trends and methods to determine and meet workforce development needs by anticipating job creation and credential requirements;

(v) Improving communication among the research branches of higher education institutions, including identification of mutually complementary areas of interest to increase funding opportunities and collaboration on intellectual property issues; and

(vi) Focusing on economic development through commercial applications of research and recruitment of new research faculty members for this purpose.

(9) Objective. -- Increase the percentage of functionally literate adults in each region of the state.

(A) Problem statement. --

(i) The literacy attainment of a population is defined at its most basic level as the percentage of those individuals over the age of fifteen who can read and write, but such a definition does not address the realities of the 21st Century. The National Literacy Act of 1991 and the National Workforce Investment Act of 1998 both define literacy more broadly as "an individual's ability to read, write, speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual and in society".

Approximately twenty percent of the adult population in West Virginia cannot meet this definition of functional literacy. One adult out of every five in the state lacks the basic literacy skills needed to succeed at work, to enter the learning environment of post-secondary education, to acquire advanced occupational training or to participate in preparing his or her own children to learn.

(ii) The high rate of illiteracy in West Virginia not only handicaps adults in seeking employment and achieving their goals for their own quality of life, but also has serious implications for the future of their children and for the state.

There is a direct, positive correlation between the reading scores of children and the education level of their parents. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) has concluded that youngsters whose parents are functionally illiterate are twice as likely to become functionally illiterate adults.

(iii) When the level of functional illiteracy in West Virginia is compared to the requirements for high-demand occupations, the negative consequences for the economy of the state become obvious. The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) established a scale of five levels which is used extensively to measure the literacy attainment of adults. When this scale was used to compare the literacy requirements of projected high-growth occupations with those in declining occupations such as certain types of manufacturing, researchers found that level three literacy is required for the new jobs, while level two is sufficient for the jobs in the declining occupations. Therefore, workers displaced from jobs in declining occupations as well as those seeking to enter or reenter the work place must possess literacy skills a full level higher than those required for workers only a few years ago. Documents such as manuals outlining standard operating procedures, health and safety manuals, leave forms and retirement options that they encounter daily require a level of literacy well above level two.

(iv) A highly skilled and literate work force is essential to the success of state businesses and industry. A ten percent increase in the average education of all workers, equivalent to approximately one additional year of schooling, is associated with an increase of about nine percent in the productivity of that labor force. Additionally, workers who lack literacy skills cannot provide the data and feedback that companies need to make informed business decisions. A company whose employees cannot record reliable production data cannot assess its performance from year to year or determine how well it is meeting its long range goals and objectives.

(v) The rate of functional illiteracy in West Virginia also has a direct impact on the health of state citizens. Residents with low literacy skills have difficulty in many health areas including the following:

(I) Understanding the correct way to take medication, interpret test results or perform simple self-testing such as taking temperatures or checking blood glucose levels;

(II) Understanding and following directions given by physicians or the written instructions provided with prescription or over-the-counter medication for themselves or for their children;

(III) Reading and understanding information on food labels and other nutrition information to make sound decisions necessary to establish and maintain healthy lifestyles; and

(IV) Furnishing correct information in emergencies to medical providers about illnesses, surgeries and medications or understanding how to fill out insurance forms and other health-related documents.

(B) Expected outcomes. --

(i) Develop greater access and capacity to deliver literacy and remedial education, workforce development training and other higher education services to place-bound adults primarily through the community and technical colleges;

(ii) Increase the percentage of the working age population who participate in higher education, either full or part time;

(iii) Establish a statewide mechanism to collect data to provide a baseline for measuring progress toward meeting the goal of functional literacy for all working-age adults and to serve as a framework for setting priorities, identifying gaps in service and targeting services to key populations, industries, economic sectors and geographic areas;

(iv) Develop programs that include, at a minimum, the following:

(I) Learning opportunities within a real-life context, such as workplace and family literacy programs;

(II) Recognition of the diversity of individual abilities, skill levels, circumstances and life goals; and

(III) Strategies to access, promote and accommodate a variety of instructional methods and learning styles.

(v) Develop a culture committed to life-long learning by creating literacy-rich environments wherever people live and work that are capable of influencing changes in individual behavior; and

(vi) Create partnerships among schools, employers, workers, governments and communities to achieve these objectives and mechanisms to collect, interpret and disseminate data to assist policymakers in determining the appropriate level of resources essential to support lifelong learning systems.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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