At the fall general faculty meeting featuring his state of university address on Sept. 24, Marshall University President Stephen Kopp said the challenges he sees ahead have a direct correlation with the present, and possible future cuts, in state funding.
On Oct. 11, a day-long planning session will begin the process of developing a 10-year contingency plan to address the prospects of deteriorating public funding for public higher education at both the state and federal levels.
"This is not just a state issue in West Virginia," Kopp said. "It is also an issue happening at the federal government level. And we need to get ready with a plan in the event that we need to begin implementing it."
Participants will include a cross-section of all constituent groups, as well as the budget work group.
The budget work group was formed late last spring and will be enlarged with more members and different constituent groups.
"The goal there is to foster greater understanding of the budget processes at the university and greater understanding of the true nature of the challenges we have," Kopp said.
"The problem that we're going to work on in these planning session is to imagine 10 years from now, we have 10 percent of state funding we had at the fiscal year of 2013, and that's the level of public funding we have at that point," Kopp said. "‘Will it happen?' I can't answer that except I could see a scenario of events that could lead to that. That's a $50 million reduction in public funding for this university."
Kopp said Marshall will not be alone in this situation and the problem lies with institutions of higher learning slowly being privatized as public institutions.
"Unless there is a significant policy change in Washington and state capitols, that's where we're headed," he said.
Not only will further possible decreases in state funding affect the universities, Kopp said, but the students who attend and the civic engagement education fosters.
"It is absolutely mind-boggling that a nation as wealthy as the United States is bailing out and foregoing its social contract with public higher education and public funding," he said. "Other nations across the world are doing the exact opposite of what the United States is doing. They're increasing their investment in the future of their young people and people of their nation. We're backing out of it.
"Further cuts in state funding are on the horizon, which, I might say, absolutely makes no sense in a state begging for more college graduates. It is absolutely illogical and irrational that we're even contemplating further cuts to this great university."
Kopp said it is time to tell the story of Marshall University as the goal of no further cuts and state appropriations is pursued and in order to avoid the outlined 10-year horizon.
"For all the things that matter in a civilized society, the educated people of our nation are the glue that holds our society together," he said. "Somehow, someway, we've lost the directional compass that got us where we are today. It's time we reassert what the campus needs to be individually and collectively."
In other matters, introductions were made of two new deans and new faculty members.