Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill, 67-32, on Monday, Feb. 22, that would allow the West Virginia University Institute of Technology to move from its current location in Montgomery.
House Bill 4310 would change state code to allow WVU Tech to move its headquarters from Montgomery to Beckley, less than 50 miles away into neighboring Raleigh County. But this short move has caused a big debate about whether the town of Montgomery can sustain itself after losing the university.
In September last year, WVU's Board of Governors voted unanimously in support move, saying that the Montgomery campus was no longer financially viable, and the move to Beckley was the only option to salvage the shrinking program.
But today’s decision was much more divisive, as delegates from both sides of the aisle rose in opposition and support of the bill. Delegate Mick Bates represents Raleigh County, which would benefit from the move.
“This is not about Fayette County. This is not about Raleigh county, or Kanawha, or even Mercer," Bates said. "It’s about students, present and future. This is not about any county or institution of higher education. It’s about allowing WVU Tech to survive, and to place it in a position to thrive.”
Montgomery is a community of about 1,700. Delegate David Perry represents the district in Fayette County and says the decline of WVU Tech is due to improper funding and a lack of support from the university’s administration.
“Is this a move to create a two-state institution in the state of West Virginia with so many small institutions we have the serve students across this state? Possibly so. I can’t say," Perry said. "I can tell you there’s an economic impact in Montgomery, there’s an economic impact to the upper Kanawha Valley, and there’s an impact to the students WVU Tech serves, and the ability to increase those number of student has been hampered and hindered by the instability created by WVU and the press over the last few years."
The bill now moves to the Senate.