2019 0417 incubator

Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert speaks as the university hosts a kick-off ceremony for its new Brad D. Smith Business Incubator on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at the university’s Visual Arts Center in downtown Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — The Marshall University Board of Governors on Thursday approved its 2019-20 budget, which includes a 4% salary increase for faculty and staff and a 3.5% tuition and fee increase for students.

The $306 million operating budget includes a $2.4 million increase in state appropriations, which are being used to give the salary increase that was promised to all state workers by the West Virginia Legislature.

Marshall President Jerome Gilbert said the appropriations from the state only equaled a 3.1% increase, but the university worked to find funds internally to bring the total to 4%. The state worker pay raise was touted by the Legislature as a 5% raise.

Since February 2018, the Board of Governors has approved three salary increases totaling more than 9% for regular full-time employees.

More than 1,400 university employees are expected to receive the increase. Faculty in the professional schools of medicine, pharmacy and physical therapy are excluded from the salary increases, but with approval of the president the schools are authorized to award an appropriate salary increases to their respective faculty.

The president is also excluded from the increase, along with anyone with a salary not governed by employment contracts.

Any faculty member whose initial start date for their position is on or after July 6 (for 12-month employees) or Aug. 17 (for nine-month employees) are excluded from the increases, including any faculty hired into positions for the fall 2019 term.

Overall, Chief Financial Officer Mark Robinson said it is a tight budget year because the exiting class is larger than incoming classes, leading to a $4.4 million reduction in revenue.

But the university was able to make up some of that lost revenue. Investment earnings have increased about $1.2 million and a savings of $515,000 was found through faculty and staff reductions - mainly through eliminating frozen positions and not filling spots left by retirements. Provost Jaime Taylor is working to analyze faculty numbers in relation to student numbers to see if more reductions can be found.

The loss of revenue paired with inflation prompted the tuition increase, which was approved earlier this month during a special board meeting, university officials said.

Gilbert said he believes there will be a modest increase in enrollment from this year to the next, but the university also has to look at other ways to bring in new revenue. Along with faculty reductions, the provost is looking into which programs can be eliminated. He said he believes there are a lot of elective courses that could be eliminated.

The board approved the elimination of the bachelor of science degree in public health, along with undergraduate certificates in Appalachian studies, Asian studies, public health and worksite wellness, due to lack of student enrollment.

On the other hand, the board approved a master of medical science physician assistant degree, along with an intent to plan a doctor of business administration program and a bachelor of arts degree in general business.

With employment of physician assistants projected to grow 37% in the next eight years, Marshall expects the new program to be successful and generate new revenue for the university. Pending a successful visit next year from the accrediting body, the first class of physician assistant students is expected to begin January 2021, with a graduation in May 2023.

Lewis College of Business Dean Avinandan Mukherjee said the doctoral business administration program will fill a need for Ph.D.-holding business professors at business schools across the country, but also at Marshall. It will be the first doctoral program of its kind in West Virginia.

The general business program will be the first totally online undergraduate program in the College of Business, and Mukherjee said he believes it will also be successful.

Following an executive session, the board also approved the acquisition of two real estate properties, one for $225,000 and another for $60,000. More information will be released when the sales are finalized.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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