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Marshall’s woes are felt by all colleges

The faculty's vote of no confidence in Marshall University President Stephen Kopp needs to be viewed against the background of the budgetary problems that loom ahead.

Marshall University faces the same problems as colleges across the country: reductions in government funding and students who are graduating with high student loan debt and slim job prospects.

The Institute for College Access & Success has an annual report on student debt. Its most recent report covered the Class of 2011, which graduated two years ago.

  • 64 percent of the Class of 2011 in West Virginia graduated with a student loan debt.
  • The debt averaged $26,200.
  • Nationally, the unemployment rate for graduating seniors was 8.8 percent.

Obviously, colleges cannot continue with large tuition increases each year.

In addition, state financial support of state universities is on the decline nationally as states grapple with  increases in demand for other services.

West Virginia cut its support of Marshall by $5 million next year, a sum that represents 9 percent of Marshall's operating budget.

Kopp is faced with the necessity of balancing the budget. As his chief of staff told the Daily Mail's Shay Maunz, "We have to find ways to make ends meet."

Unfortunately, Kopp was clumsy in moving nearly $10 million from departmental accounts into a central holding account controlled by his office.

Kopp did so without warning. As necessary as the move may have been, Kopp should have told the

faculty first, which would have prevented the alarmed reaction.

In light of that, the faculty vote - 290 against Kopp of 420 voting - was understandable, even after Kopp apologized.

But Joseph Touma, chairman of Marshall's governing board, said the "overwhelming majority" of the board supported Kopp, even as it seeks "better communication and collegiality from all constituent groups."

Marshall must make expenses meet revenue.

Everyone needs to take a deep cleansing breath and exhale slowly. After decades of rising revenues, in part fueled by cheap student loans, higher education is entering a period of retrenchment.

Kopp and the Marshall faculty need to work together to make this transition as smooth as possible.



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