House Bill 2805 calls for re-merging Pierpont Community and Technical College with Fairmont State University and making the CTC a division of the university.
The bill would also nullify a 2008 law that the West Virginia Legislature passed to force each state university to separate with the community and technical college they created in the early 1970s when community colleges were first created in the Mountain State.
If the bill passes, it also calls for turning over to Fairmont State all of the property that Pierpont currently owns. One of the bones of contention that grew out of the 2008 split involved some $30 million in bonds the two schools issued together to finance such facilities as residence halls and classrooms.
HB 2805 also calls for Fairmont State to establish an advisory board of “no less than five and no more than nine members” to guide the mission of the new community college division. The chairperson of the new advisory would have a seat on the larger Fairmont State Board of Governors. The bill also calls for merging the budgets of the two schools.
Our concern here is for the students who appear to be caught in the middle.
Whatever shape, form or fashion this bill ends up in, we implore every West Virginia senator and delegate to think about how this bill will impact students. Ask the hard questions.
Will tuition for two-year degree-seeking students increase under the terms of HB 2805? Will the degrees previously earned by Pierpont CTC graduates be accepted by Fairmont State because, at present, Fairmont State and Pierpont do not have an articulation agreement that allows students seamless entry into the university from the community college.
Aside from the issue of tuition, lawmakers need to ascertain how this bill will impact the WV Invests, the free community and technical college grant program that was established in 2019. Will Fairmont State be allowed to become a WV Invests partner? As written, HB 2805 calls for Fairmont State to be exempt from the rules and regulations of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, which governs the programs administered and offered by the state’s community and technical colleges. The public — and potential adult students — need to know about WV Invests.
While the separation brought about in 2008 was contentious for Fairmont and Marion County, it appears this legislation to re-merge will be as equally contentious.
We know parties on both sides of the issue, we just ask that this be carried out in a manner that will never harm student standing, be fiscally responsible and transparent for every party involved.
The original bill called for the merger to be complete in July this year until local Marion County lawmakers voiced opposition and had an extra year added to the timeline.
We urge lawmakers to slow down, hold hearings, get some feedback from the non-traditional students at Pierpont who have chosen to go back to school to re-train for skills they currently do not have in hopes of improving their lives.
The bottom line is, this all seems to be moving way too fast.