WEST Virginia University and Marshall are not only the two biggest universities in the state, but they are also among the largest taxpayer-supported institutions.
Together, they receive $170 million annually.
For WVU, that works out to $7,600 for every in-state full-time student. For Marshall, it equates to $6,000 of state funds for every in-state, full-time student.
The state's Higher Education Policy Commission is, by law, responsible for oversight of the state's public colleges and universities. However, Senate Bill 444 would wipe away much of that oversight.
The bill, which has passed the state Senate and is now in the House of Delegates, exempts WVU and Marshall from having to seek approval from the commission for large capital projects and long-term investments.
It also eliminates commission review of the salaries of the presidents at the two institutions. (Marshall President Stephen Kopp is paid $390,420, while WVU President Jim Clements is paid $775,180.)
Naturally, the two schools want the bill to pass. WVU and Marshall would rather answer only to schools' Boards of Governors, which tend to be largely compliant with the wishes of the schools' administrations.
But this is a bad idea.
West Virginia and its taxpayers make large investments in WVU and Marshall every year. The state has a vested interest in how the schools operate.