"After making cuts every year, in his final year Wise was going to cut funding for state universities again -- this time by 15 percent," Lewis said, "At the time, Hardesty and [Marshall University President] Dan Angel worked against the governor.
"Gov. Wise had his scandal [his extramarital affair] then, which undercut him politically. So the universities were spared."
Commercialization of higher education
A growing "commercialization" of education, Lewis argues, undermines humanities classes and degrees.
Nationally, humanities degrees fell from 18 percent of all undergraduate degrees earned in 1968 to 8 percent by 2005. The number of PhD. degrees dropped by 45 percent between the 1970s and 2004.
"A national trend, that began in the 1980s, was a serious shift away from the notion that higher education is a 'public good.'
"The more educated the public is, the more equipped they are to be good citizens in a democracy. That was the historic rationale for having public money spent on colleges and universities," Lewis said.
The ongoing shift from academic to vocational values, Lewis believes, threatens the future of traditional universities.
"There was also a shift away from the state putting money into public universities and colleges across the country, including WVU.
"Close to 50 percent of the operating funds for WVU once came from the state. Now, it is probably around 20 percent," Lewis said.
"With its commercialization, higher education has taken on the metric of business. What is likely to pay off in the long run -- in dividends, better jobs, more money -- has become more important than going to college to get a broad education.
"Sports is the ultimate example of commercialization in higher education," Lewis said.
Athletics pay their own way in only 17 programs around the country, including WVU and Ohio State University.
Sports also help universities in some ways," Lewis said. "Student applications, for example, jump after big bowls."
The importance of WVU
"I cannot think or conceive of another university that is as critically important to the state in which it resides -- to the state's economic and social progress and to the opportunities afforded its young men and women," Vest writes in his introduction.
It is important that WVU maintain its enrollment at current levels, which could become difficult with the state's declining high-school population.
"The guiding principle is still offering the best you can at the most reasonable costs. You want the university to be accessible,"
WVU benefits from its ongoing ability to attract students from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and other states.
"WVU depends on bringing those students in," Lewis said. Some people criticize the state for running an institution that is educating people from other states.
"Out-of-state students spend three times the amount of money in-state students spend. If they didn't come, you would have a lot fewer faculty and less courses to offer to West Virginia students.
Lewis believes "governance" by politicians is bad. "Most of the time, governors thought of the university as a state agency. And that is not just WVU.
"When Joe Manchin was elected governor, he thought the institution should be more self governing. There is a world of difference now in morale. It is dramatically different place.
"WVU is out to help the public. The WVU Medical Center, for example, took up new programs to take medicines out into communities," Lewis said."
Science programs at WVU have grown dramatically, especially in biology, medicine and engineering.
"WVU is now the leader in fields like biometrics. It works with groups along the High-Tech Corridor on I-79, including the technology center at Fairmont."
"Aspiring to Greatness" concludes: "The undeniable truth is that West Virginia University has charted a course of a more promising future than it could have hoped for in the past."
WVU Press is also releasing a reprint of: "William T. Doherty Jr. and Festus P. Summers, "West Virginia University: Symbol of Unity in a Sectionalized State," a book by originally published in 1982. It is 404 pages long and also costs $39.99.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.