Currently, the funding of the state’s colleges and universities is fairly simple – same as last year. There is a distinct lack of any correlation between the level of support each individual institution receives each year and a clear, well-thought-out formula. On occasion, the state’s budget will provide for a diversion - an across-the-board cut or additional funding for an institution that responds to an immediate need. For the most part, however, an institution’s state appropriation follows a pattern that is rooted in the amounts determined in the late 1990s.
This paper suggests that the lack of a logical method for the distribution of state funding to each institution rests with the lack of a clearly defined philosophical purpose for subsidization. True, the Code is replete with legislative directives and mandates – many of which fail to include a solemn promise of funding. Yet, there is no clear reason as to why the taxpayers of West Virginia subsidize its institutions of higher learning.
From a 30,000-foot view of the Code, regulations and an historical perspective of state funding, there appears to be three reasons for taxpayer support of higher education:
Support for general operations;
Subsidization of resident student tuition; and
Incentives for the attainment of state policy goals.
All three philosophical purposes are stated or reasonably inferred. Often, funding is implied or statutorily required. Yet, the Governor and the Legislature consistently ignore these statutory implications.
This conundrum stems from the fact that while statutory mandates are open-ended, i.e. the HEPC shall do this, this and this, funding is finite – here’s how much you have to spend.
This paper offers a financing alternative. It starts from the premise that the West Virginia Code grants the Higher Education Policy Commission the power to create a method for the allocation of state funding to the individual institutions. In operation, the Governor and the Legislature has confiscated such authority from the HEPC by setting forth specific state appropriations for each institution in the state’s annual budget. This proposal returns the authority to the HEPC.