Bill splits W.Va. community colleges from four-year institutions

By Scott Finn 

For years, several community colleges in West Virginia shared their campus, administration and governing board with larger, four-year institutions. Critics said the larger institutions were siphoning off resources from the community colleges. A handful of them already have broken free and become free-standing institutions. 

Today, the Senate passed a bill to separate the rest of the state’s community colleges from their four-year colleges and universities – but not before a spirited debate and one of the closer votes of the session. 

Supporters of West Virginia University Parkersburg, or WVU-P, didn’t want to break away from WVU. But for Senator Roman Prezioso of Marion County, it’s long overdue. 

“Here we had these Siamese twins, joined at the hip. It took 18 years and one fell swoop to split it apart and make it work,” he said. 

But Senator Donna Boley said that the bill was “prepared in the backroom” and that WVU-P shouldn’t be part of it. 

Senator Frank Deem of Wood County said he’s gotten more e-mail about WVU-P and this bill than anything else this session. He says the current system works, so why fix it? 

Senator Mike Oliverio asked if students at WVU-P would get their degree from WVU. Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale said they would receive it from WVU-P’s new board. Plymale argued that community colleges should be freestanding so they can focus on workforce development. 

House Bill 3215 passed by a vote of 24 to 9. It now goes back to the House to see if the Delegates will agree to the changes that were made in the Senate.

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