Bill introduced to privatize WVSOM

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On the opening day of the West Virginia Legislative session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, Senator Craig Blair (R-Berkeley) introduced a bill to privatize the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

According to Article 2D of Senate Bill 184, the transfer would make WVSOM a private not-for-profit corporation to be governed by a board of trustees. WVSOM is a state institution.

“(WVSOM) currently does not hold any bonds or have any indebtedness to the state, and would greatly benefit from increased flexibility in its medical education operations, and possesses the financial stability to operate privately without long-term reliance on state appropriations,” the bill says.

According to the proposed bill, the transfer would occur on July 1, 2018, and thus WVSOM would cease being a state owned and operating institution. Including in the transfer would be all real property, facilities, buildings, equipment, records (electronic and hard copy), intellectual property, and all contracts obtained on behalf of the institution.

The bill further states that the school must remain a non-profit organization and that all WVSOM-owned property may not be sold to a for-profit organization.

Further, the bill states that upon the transfer, all WVSOM employees “shall become at-will employees of the not-for-profit corporation.” Employees of the school who were employed before the transfer will maintain their state-given rights to state re-employment if laid off and have access to sick and annual leave benefits that were accrued and unused before the transfer. The bill also states that WVSOM employees will no longer be eligible for Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA) benefits.

The bill also provides that  students enrolled on the date of transfer, and who have qualified for in-state tuition, will not bear the brunt of any tuition increases through a Student Tuition Transition Fund that will be operated by the Higher Education Policy commission.

According to its website, WVSOM is home to 233 in-state medical students and 606 out-of-state students. It has been ranked as a top medical school for 18 years by the U.S. News and World Report.

In 2016, WVSOM was honored as one of the Best Colleges to Work For by the Chronicle of Higher Education for the sixth consecutive year.