WVU-P: Charleston should follow their lead

It seems as though the folks in Charleston could learn a thing or two from officials at West Virginia University–Parkersburg, particularly chief financial officer Alice Harris.

Despite a 4.6 percent budget cut from the state, WVU-P is rolling, with solid enrollment, a 2 percent pay increase for all employees and, most importantly, a balanced budget.

Harris has presided over changes in operating and other expenses that reduced spending, while planning thoroughly and budgeting conservatively. Meanwhile, the school has sought out new sources of revenue. A modest tuition increase — WVU-P still has the lowest bachelor degree tuition in the state and is among the top 50 most affordable 4-year colleges in the nation — has been coupled with new ideas such as offering in-state tuition to students from Ohio and anyone accepted into one of the school’s three online baccalaureate degree programs.

WVU-P has dealt with what could have been challenging times by becoming an efficient, strong institution where, by the way, student retention is also up 10 percent. And more than once during his announcement of the employee pay raise, WVU-P President Fletcher Lamkin emphasized this improved institution is operating “within the parameters of our balanced budget.”

In fact, when faced with the possibility of another 2 or 3 percent cut from the state, Harris said while it would not be welcomed, “We would be able to continue to operate and continue to provide services to students with minimal impact to the college. I feel comfortable that the budget is realistic and something we can achieve.”

Imagine if the head of every public department in Charleston, and the people in charge of their finances, thought the way the folks at WVU-P do. Make necessary changes to operations and other expenses that reduce spending; plan well; operate within the means of the agency with enough cushion for future challenges; seek out sources of revenue that inflict as little pain as possible and to at least some degree benefit those served by the agency; and rather than pretend the sky is falling when the status quo is shaken, jump on that change to find opportunities for improving the agency for the sake of both its employees and the people it serves.

For Lamkin, Harris and everyone else working hard to keep making great things happen at WVU-P, it is just common sense.