FAIRMONT, W. Va. – In a press release from Fairmont State University, State Sen. Bob Beach’s assertions, D-Monongalia, in a call for a forensic audit are inaccurate and issued the following statement:
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Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College have each worked tirelessly to fulfill their missions and serve their students, employees, and all of North Central West Virginia.
Less than a year ago, Fairmont State and Pierpont signed an agreement detailing the full separation of the two institutions. Since then, Fairmont State has met all of the requirements for this separation. As the University moved forward, they renegotiated their bond agreements to ensure the financial stability and strength of the institution. Externally, campus entrance signs were uncovered and repainted, campus-branded programs expanded, and with the space available after Pierpont departments left campus, the University redesigned many of these spaces to better serve their students. As the University moved fully into its new future as a distinct institution, all eyes were on the front, not the back.
The natural question then is, why is reunification again an option for both institutions? Over the course of several months, Pierpont’s board of directors worried about the institution’s continued financial viability. So he approached the Fairmont State Board of Trustees and asked them to join in reinventing a shared vision to ensure that students, programs and businesses in North Central West Virginia will continue to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Pierpont.
At a press conference in Charleston on Feb. 9 and through multiple social media posts, WV State Sen. (D-Mon 13) Bob Beach repeatedly leveled inaccurate accusations against the Fairmont State University, including a 12-point request to the state auditor regarding university funding. and a call for a full forensic audit.
In a tweet, WV auditor JB McCuskey replied, “The @WVAuditor spent 5 years working with @FairmontState to reform and modernize their financial processes. They are a leader in automation, efficiency and transparency. We regularly review their invoices and work with their staff. There were no red flags.
Each year, the University, as part of the WV Higher Education Policy Commission Fund, is required to conduct an audit through an independent accounting firm. These conclusions are then presented to the Board of Governors at the plenary meeting of the Board in December. Fairmont State University ended the year with significant increases in its net position for the fourth consecutive year and received an unmodified audit opinion. According to the December 10 WVHEPC board meeting agenda, Fairmont’s State Composite Financial Index currently stands at 5.07, excluding its foundation resources, which ranks first among four-year colleges in the state of West Virginia. At the same meeting, WVHEPC reported that Fairmont State had 270 days of cash as of June 30, 2021, also the highest among four-year WV colleges. At the December 9 WVCTCS meeting, Pierpont would have 127 days of cash on hand and a composite financial indicator of -2.96. As of the date of this report, Pierpont had the lowest financial scores of two-year colleges in the state.
On April 1, 2021, Fairmont State and Pierpont entered into a definitive separation agreement that set out each property’s obligations. It addressed how Pierpont would continue to meet debt service payments for the bonds in which its revenues had been pledged from 2002 until 2032, when the debt will be extinguished. The agreement provides that Pierpont’s portion of the debt service will be provided through a payment of $1.3 million in FY22 and $1.5 million in FY23 in exercise 32.
This final separation agreement also set out Pierpont’s exit plan from the Fairmont State’s Locust Avenue campus and the National Aerospace Education Center in Bridgeport, WV, which is to be completed by June 30, 2022. To cover the cost of l Pierpont’s continued occupancy and operation of space at these two campuses for FY2022, Pierpont will pay $650,000 for FY22. Pierpont has benefited from streamlined services and buying power provided by Fairmont State through annual agreements for over 15 years. The amount paid by Pierpont for FY22 is the lowest amount they have contributed to the spaces and services they have used since the agreements began in 2005.
As for Fairmont State’s state appropriations, they remained among the lowest per FTE in the state of any state institution. In the fall of 2018, Governor Justice appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission on Four-Year Higher Education to create a funding formula to distribute funding fairly among four-year higher education institutions. The Legislature adopted the recalibration formula and distributed additional budget support to all public institutions for four years. Fairmont State received a $3 million increase in its appropriations, but still remained one of the least funded in the state. In FY22, the Legislature provided $3 million to support final separation. Fairmont State received $500,000 of the total while Pierpont received $2.5 million. Fairmont State did not receive an increase in its base credits for the purposes of the separation.
Beach also raised questions about the Blanche Kinney endowment. This endowment remains in good standing and under the direction of the Fairmont State Foundation, which guarantees compliance with the donor agreement.
In addition to its strong financial health, the University has introduced more than 15 new academic programs, minors and concentrations in recent years, including at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.
Should the Legislature decide to introduce and enact legislation into law and reunite the two institutions, the legislation would provide for a transition period to submit a change of control application to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for approval. of unification by the HLC Board of Directors.
Additionally, an advisory group comprising members of both institutions will be formed to oversee this integration and work to make it as seamless as possible. If the legislation passes, Pierpont will become Pierpont College of Community & Technical Education. This new college within Fairmont State will be headed by a dean similar to the other five colleges at Fairmont State. Additionally, the Fairmont State Board of Governors will add three new members, including a member of faculty and its Board of Trustees from Pierpont, as well as a member with business experience and the employment of college-educated graduates. community and technical education.
The integration of two institutions will not happen overnight. Rest assured that no immediate job or program reduction plans are in place. The purpose of the advisory committee will be to study all aspects of both institutions and make prudent decisions that will benefit the students, residents of North Central West Virginia, and its industries.
Both organizations stand ready to work alongside the legislature to answer any questions they may have regarding the future of the two institutions.