This story was written by Amber Marra, The Daily Athenaeum
The ensuing national economic crisis has not had a negative affect on West Virginia University, but members of the Board of Governors say problems are possible.At Fridays BOG meeting, Interim President C. Peter Magrath and other members drew parallels between WVUs student population and the economy.(The economic crisis) presents a challenge of the access of adequate financial resources for students who want to come here and thrive, Magrath said.The presentation drew attention to students accessibility to loans and financial aid at WVU compared to other universities. Other schools have had to switch lenders after 130 of them have stopped working with student loans.Despite many other institutions efforts to scramble to find alternative lenders, WVUs student loan processes have not been affected because the University partners with the Federal Direct Student Loan Program. This lender has not pulled student loan services.Our No. 1 concern is actually rising tuition rates and rising interest rates along with the diminished availability of loans, said Kaye Widney, the director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at WVU.According to a national survey reported by Widney, parents on average contribute 48 percent of tuition, while students contribute 33 percent, and the rest comes from state funds and grants.But the amount parents borrow may increase as the economic crisis matures.The amount of loans used at WVU has already doubled since 2005 with $20 million used this year in credit-based loans. Overall, there has been an 11 percent increase in financial aid requests at WVU this year.It is a very real concern for students and families who may not have the savings that once existed if this pattern continues, Widney said.Enrollment patterns and housing situations may change due to the economic downturn as well, according to Widney.Students may try to live closer to home or attend a two-year college before they transfer to a four-year school rather than paying for a dorm room or apartment.BOG member Ellen Cappellanti said WVU still has lower tuition for out-of-state students than many of its competitors. She said that this could create an opportunity to better the quality of the students that the University brings in.BOG faculty representative Steve Kite, Faculty Senate Chair Virginia Kleist and Senate Chair-elect Nigel Clark addressed the type of professors WVU attracts.During the annual report, Kite said WVU has been phenomenally productive in recent years but still pays its professors below that of many other institutions.The faculty salaries at WVU were compared to faculty salaries at every school WVU plays in football this year. The only college on the football schedule that pays its faculty less than WVU which pays its full professors an average of $93,000 per year was Marshall University, which pays its full professors an average of $71,000 a year.Compensation is an issue and genuine concern for many faculty members because we want to be as competitive as possible, Kite said.Research and development was also addressed in the annual report.Clark outlined the positive affects more research would cause, including economic growth, vibrant teaching and overall success as a university.We need a vision to succeed, but you also need a vision to fail. You just need to choose which is the right vision, Clark said.Some BOG members suggested ways for the research and development to improve by focusing on the Universitys strongest programs and retaining experienced faculty with unique opportunities.One main attraction to WVU is that new faculty can come here and start work on their research quickly without having to buck up against senior faculty, said Interim Provost E. Jane Martin.BOG Chair Carolyn Long said there may be work committees formed to address both the potential problems the economic downturn could cause the University and faculty compensation and prouctivity.