Flash Flooding adds to financial struggles for University

Last week’s flash flood devastating parts of Marshall University’s campus will be another financial burden to MU’s already tight financial situation, according to the vice president of finances. 

The flash floods that hit Marshall’s campus on Aug. 30 left a variety of university classes and other services out of commission for the entirety of the week. 

Several classrooms in the science and education buildings’ lower floors were unfit for practice after the flood, leaving classes cancelled or continued virtually while the university attended to the damages. 

The West Virginia Board of Risk & Insurance Management is evaluating the total cost that Marshall has paid in repairs, adding stress to the school’s already loaded structural deficit. 

Mark Robinson, the senior vice president for finance, dived into the larger causes. “We obviously have fiscal challenges here with decreasing enrollment and state support dwindling,” Robinson said.  

Since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown starting in early 2020, the University has had to jump through a variety of financial hurdles. These challenges were remedied by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  

The CARES Act has allowed the university to delegate support funding for all Marshall students. 

“It’s propping us up this year, it propped us up some last year.” Robinson said. 

Of the $13 million supporting Marshall students over the next year, $500,000 will assist students in response to emergency crises or COVID related incidents and losses. 

Students who did not receive support funding on behalf of the CARES Act last semester, such as international students and freshmen, will receive support in the form of the Technology Grant, which is to be dispersed in early September. 

Marshall, along with other universities around the state, is struggling with the state’s decline in student enrollment, which Robinson says may challenge the justification of so many colleges in West Virginia. 

“We’ve got too many universities in the state, particularly with the shrinking population of students,” Robinson said. 

Despite this criticism, Robinson acknowledged the important roles colleges and higher education programs play in their home communities. 

“The backside of it is those are ‘economic piers’ that hold up those communities,” Robinson said. 

Above all, Robinson said the continuously shrinking student population may be one of the highest threats to the university’s financials. 

“We have got to get students from out of state because the population of those eligible in this state is shrinking,” Robinson said. “We’ve got a real bad triangle here; you have got less students coming in, student debt, and a state that’s not going to really support education for whatever reason.”