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Understanding the Difference between State and State-Supported

Robin Capehart, West Liberty

Having spent close to two decades working at some of West Virginia’s most aggressive postsecondary institutions, including Marshall University and West Liberty University, Robin Capehart has witnessed firsthand the gradual decline of the state’s public higher education system. In a recent article for the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, Robin Capehart outlines how an ever-increasing avalanche of government-imposed rules and regulations, combined with decreasing levels of state funding, are slowly but surely eroding the competitive advantage of West Virginia’s postsecondary schools.

To address this problem, Capehart calls for a paradigm shift in which West Virginia’s colleges and universities transition from state institutions to state-supported institutions. Understanding the difference between these two types is therefore an important part of helping move the state’s higher education system forward.
State institutions reflect a highly centralized bureaucratic model in which compliance with rules and regulations, rather than results, are the primary concern. It’s not difficult to see how this adherence to a one-size-fits-all mentality can place a stranglehold on the flexibility and innovation that allows leading postsecondary institutions to thrive.
State-supported institutions, on the other hand, are supported by a certain degree of public funding, but essentially operate as private institutions that pursue specified public policy goals in exchange for this funding. For example, if West Virginia’s policy leaders implemented a goal of increasing the state’s supply of nurses, public institution subsidies would reward those colleges and universities that were successful in meeting that need.

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