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West Virginia Legislature Approves “Bucks for Brains”

March 19, 2008

Witnessing the success experienced by its neighbor, West Virginia is creating a university R&D matching endowment program similar to Kentucky’s. The legislature approved $50 million for Gov. Joe Manchin’s “Bucks for Brains” initiative to be allocated from lottery surplus funds (see the Jan. 16, 2008 issue of the Digest). The West Virginia Research Trust Fund will receive $50 million to match research endowments at the state’s two research universities, West Virginia University (WVU) and Marshall University. Another $30 million will fund the “Training Bucks” program establishing two community-college affiliated training centers throughout the state.
Lawmakers appropriated more than $200 million in budget surplus funds during a special legislative session that adjourned Sunday, including $10 million for economic development loans and $7.1 million for expansion of allied health programs recommended by the governor.
Not all of Gov. Manchin’s proposals survived the legislative process. The effort to transform the Promise Scholarship into a loan forgiveness program for students who remain employed in the state was tabled. Instead, the governor is directing the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission to form a committee to evaluate the program over the next year and recommend alternative methods for retaining college graduates.
The fiscal year 2009 approved budget for the West Virginia Development Office within the Department of Commerce includes $235,783 for the West Virginia High Tech Consortium Foundation - the same level recommended by the governor - $200,000 for the National Youth Science Complex, and $176,783 for the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex.
Additional Commerce appropriations include $1.9 million for Partnership Grants, $519,800 for the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced/Flexible Manufacturing Technology Outreach and Programs for Environmental and Advanced Technologies, and $144,000 for the West Virginia Manufacturing Extension Partnership – the same funding level as FY08.
The Division of Energy was allotted $730,000 each for WVU and Southern West Virginia Community and Technology College for the Mine Training and Energy Technologies Academy, a career training program in advanced processes of mining and energy technology fields.

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