WVU News

WVU BOG approves ‘Transformation Timeline’ for program reductions, RIFs, to cut budget by $45 million

MORGANTOWN – WVU’s Board of Governors approved a “Transformation Timeline” on Wednesday, and OK’d putting out for public comment proposed amendments to its rules for faculty and classified staff RIFs – reductions in force – and severance package schedules.

The moves come as WVU aims to become a leaner institution in light of declining student enrollment and budget deficits. Enrollment has declined from 31,000 in 2014 to about 26,000 this year, and WVU anticipates a continued drop to 21,000 by 2033.

This year’s budget deficit is $45 million and WVU is looking at a $75 million annual deficit moving forward if it takes no action. So the university is now taking steps to reduce programs and staff to cut its budget by $45 million – about 3% of its overall budget.

As MetroNews reported here, through the summer and fall, academic programs will be evaluated based on enrollment, cost of delivery, revenue generated and what programs best suit the land grant university mission. A product of the process, the university contends, will be more programs that serve current students better and attract a new group of degree seekers.

Stephanie Taylor, WVU vice president and general counsel, explained the timeline and comment period plans to the BOG.

The comment period on the RIF rules and severance packages will begin May 22 and run through June 21. May 24 will be the first of several “campus conversations” on the topics. Campus conversations are online, public discussions used to bring together and inform members of the university community about a variety of topics, WVU’s University Relations office explained.

On June 22, the BOG will vote on WVU’s Fiscal Year 2024 (July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024) financial plan and look at FY 2025 projections. It will also get a look at transformation plans.

On July 10, deans and chairs will be notified of “programs of concern” subject to a program review.

At a special meeting tentatively set for July 31, the BOG will vote on the amended rules and severance packages and discuss the programs of concern.

Faculty and staff will be notified of preliminary recommendations for program reduction (scaling down) or discontinuation on Aug. 11. Chairs and faculty may appeal the recommendations by Aug. 18. The BOG will meet Aug. 21 or 22 to hear those recommendations, and appeal hearings will run Aug. 21-Sept. 5.

The appeal process will end Sept. 6 and the BOG will vote on final recommendations on Sept. 15. The campus community will be notified Sept. 18.

Faculty and staff RIF/non-renewal notices will go out Oct. 16.

Regarding the changes to the RIF rules, WVU President Gordon Gee told the BOG, “This has been a work of significant effort on the part of the senior team.” The rule changes are simply clarifications, to make sure there is clarity about the RIF process moving forward.

Faculty RIFs/non-renewals will be based on performance, knowledge and qualifications, and seniority. Assuming a notice date of Oct. 16 and a contract end date of May 9, 2024, faculty will have 30 weeks’ notice.

Some faculty will be offered a retention bonus for a two- to three-year “teach out,” which is continuing a program to allow students enrolled in discontinued programs to finish at WVU or move to a similar program or something else they might be interested in.

Classified staff will receive a minimum 60-days’ notice.

WVU Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop took a question asking how many people will be affected by the RIFs. He said the number isn’t finalized but they will try to be “transparent early and often.”

WVU has 7,000 FTE (full time equivalent) employees and the “overwhelming majority” will remain. “We’ll do what we need to do for the financial viability” of the university.

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