W.Va. Board Approves Private College Oversight

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia's Higher Education Policy Commission has approved a rule expanding its authority over private and for-profit colleges.

The policy approved Friday would require information from every state private college on student retention rates, transfers, licensure pass rates and loan default rates.

The rule first must be approved by the Legislature.

Currently the commission has the authority to monitor only the 12 public and private colleges and universities in the state. The Charleston Gazette reports the new policy also will include 10 regionally accredited private colleges and four accredited for-profit schools.

"This will give students more information about the management of their school," said commission chancellor Paul Hill. "We'll be able to step in much sooner and raise issues if schools are having trouble."

In June, the Higher Learning Commission revoked Mountain State's accreditation because of leadership, organizational and integrity issues. The accreditation later was extended to Dec. 31. Mountain State plans to appeal its loss of accreditation.

"Some think we're over-regulating," Hill said. "But with the unfortunate situation we've seen with Mountain State University, we see what can happen without oversight."

Also Friday, the Higher Education Policy Commission plans to ask Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to exempt it from his request for most state agencies to trim their budgets by 7.5 percent for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The request would mean a $35 million budget reduction for the commission.

"It's sort of like asking your star quarterback to take a salary cut," said commission chairman David Hendrickson. "I think we need to send a strong message to the governor that we can't make any more cuts.

"They want us to increase college graduates in this state, which will increase the work force, which will increase the tax base and state revenue — but we can't do that with this drastic cut."

Some parts of the higher education budget are exempt from the cuts, including some funding for the PROMISE college scholarship program. If necessary, direct funding to public institutions would be trimmed.

"Colleges will have to look at inefficiencies in programs and eliminate some things, but West Virginia's cost per student is already pretty low, compared to other states," said Ed Magee, the commission's vice chancellor. "That means tuition increases may need to be part" of the solution.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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