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Investment bill would give schools more control

Mar. 16, 2013 @ 10:46 PM

HUNTINGTON -- A bill has been introduced in the West Virginia Senate to give the foundations of Marshall and West Virginia universities more investment power.

That's something Marshall President Stephen Kopp and members of the board of governors have been seeking because the university's investment earnings far outpace that being reaped by the state.

Marshall's chief financial officer, Mary Ellen Heuton, said the $30 million invested through the Marshall University Foundation during the second half of 2012 produced $1.7 million in earnings.

Comparatively, she said the state's $85 million in investments produced only $70,000. Heuton said the difference is the level of risk of the investments, along with having a more diversified portfolio.

Senate Bill 444, sponsored by local Sens. Bob Plymale and Evan Jenkins and Monongalia Sen. Robert D. Beach, would increase the investment limit for Marshall from $30 million to $60 million, while WVU's investment power would increase from $40 million to $70 million.

Heuton explained that the funds which are limited in terms of whether the university or the state invests them are not money given to the institutions by the state. It is money that Marshall already has in various accounts from various funding streams.

She said most earnings are not restricted and can be spent on the needs of the university. She mentioned a structural problem found with a beam in the roof of Old Main in late 2012 that required a quick influx of cash to repair it.

Heuton also said the administration could choose to use earnings to offset the proposed cuts in the state budget, which would impact all public higher education institutions.

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