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Funding cuts prompt MU To draft ‘business model'

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By JAMES E. CASTO
For The State Journal

Struggling with continuing cuts in state funding, Marshall University has launched a new campus-wide study with a goal of developing a new "business model" for the school.

"We must become more self-reliant and more self-sustained," President Stephen Kopp said in announcing the long-range study, named "Marshall 20/20." 

With the latest cuts in state spending ordered by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in early January, Marshall will lose nearly $700,000. This comes on top of a $5.3 million cut levied at the beginning of the fiscal year. And the university is concerned that Tomblin and the West Virginia Legislature, now in session, may mandate still more spending reductions.

Damage from the recent cold temperatures is adding to the school's budget woes. Kopp told a Jan. 23 meeting of the Faculty Senate that the university sustained about $300,000 in damages from the freezing and subsequent fracturing of pipes that are part of its sprinkler system. The pipe problem primarily affected the Science Building, Kopp said, and some of the costs will be covered by insurance. 

Charting MU's future fiscal course is the mission Kopp handed the university's Budget Work Group when he established it in Spring 2013. The group includes representatives from all academic and administrative departments, along with members from the Faculty Senate, Classified Staff Council and Student Government Association.

Two other work groups are addressing Marshall's "academic portfolio," which includes those programs that result in degrees being awarded, and its "service portfolio, which includes non-faculty activity in support of students, faculty, staff, teaching, research and athletics.

"It is important to realize that this process is not just cutting spending," said Matt Turner, Marshall's chief of staff. "By engaging in this process, we will learn about opportunities that may have been missed in the past and consider how we can become more efficient."

Members of the Academic Work Group include deans, chairmen and other academic personnel. Each academic unit is being asked to prepare a niche statement that will provide a rational for sustaining each of its programs, along its projected costs.

According to an article in the university's newsletter, the service portfolio will cover all areas of the school that provide services in support of Marshall's mission outside of instruction. This includes student services, departmental administration, auxiliaries and personnel services.

In another part of the Marshall 20/20 effort, the school has drafted a new vision statement: "The vision of Marshall University is to inspire learning and creativity that ignites the mind, nurtures the spirit and fulfills the promise of a better future."