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WVSU fires employees, eliminates positions, considers more cost-saving

By Mackenzie Mays, Staff writer

West Virginia State University has fired 10 employees and is considering more cost-saving measures.

School officials announced the layoffs earlier this month and also eliminated 15 already vacant positions.

WVSU spokeswoman Kimberly Osborne said the terminations are a direct response to a budget summit held in November that recommended several ways the school could cut costs and generate revenue.

One of those recommendations was, in the words of the budget summit, “potential personnel adjustments to ensure greater efficiency and effectiveness of university operations,” and is the cause for the terminations, Osborne said.

“This is the first look at this efficiency. There are other efficiencies that may result in — and may impact — how our staffing is going forward. But this is what is happening now,” Osborne said.

WVSU currently employs about 340 faculty and staff members, with a student population of about 2,500.

The budget summit included WVSU administrators, faculty, staff and students, Osborne said.

Other recommendations include renting campus space to outside businesses, reducing energy and paper record-keeping costs and combining various departments within the university to eliminate redundancies.

WVSU is not facing a budget deficit but is trying to be proactive, Osborne said, pointing to a decrease in state and federal funding for higher education.

The state’s higher education budget was cut by 3.75 percent this year.

“This was a very difficult decision, and the university has really weathered some challenging times. But that’s not different than any other university across the country,” she said. “This budget year makes it the third consecutive year where [WVSU] has had a reduction in financial support from state and federal government.

“We need to figure out where are we and what we need to do to remain sustainable,” Osborne said. “This is a situation where we know we have to grow. It’s not a situation where you reduce costs and address the problem. You have to grow.”

WVSU announced the layoffs in a news release dated Aug. 6, but the release was not actually sent to members of the media. Osborne said the release was “made available to media upon request.” In the release, President Brian Hemphill says that while state funding has decreased, the school’s fixed costs have remained the same, and staffing levels have remained steady over the past decade.

Hemphill also emphasized that student recruitment is a top priority.

The school welcomed a record number of freshmen last year, but overall student enrollment has drastically decreased in the past decade.

“To provide the best research and teaching environments, West Virginia State must evolve. We must decrease our fixed and operating costs, allowing us to continue providing access and opportunity, while maintaining the high-quality, affordable education that State provides and our students expect,” Hemphill says in the release. “Moving forward, we will remain dedicated to fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency by continuously studying and adjusting our path.”

Osborne said some recommendations are still being studied and some are already being carried out.

For a full list of the budget summit recommendations, visit http://wvstateu.edu/Administration/Office-of-the-President/Budget-Efficiency-Summit/Budget-Efficiency-Summit-Recommendations.aspx.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @MackenzieMays on Twitter.


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