(b) When selecting peers, the commission shall abide by the following conditions:
(1) The peer institutions shall be selected from among institutions throughout the United States and not solely from the states that are members of the southern regional education board.
(2) The peer institutions for community and technical colleges shall be selected in collaboration with the council.
(3) The peer institutions, as selected by the commission, shall be used as benchmarks for comparison purposes only and are not intended to reflect funding goals for West Virginia institutions of higher education. Such a use is inappropriate since institutions selected as peers for a state institution may be located in an area of high per capita income or have their funding subject to other factors that make its use unrealistic for setting funding goals in West Virginia. The peer institutions shall be used for comparison in the following areas:
(A) To determine adjustments to base operating budgets as described in section five of this article;
(B) To determine comparable levels of tuition;
(C) To determine comparable faculty and staff teaching requirements and other workloads; and
(D) For such other purposes as the law may require or the commission may find useful or necessary.
(4) The commission shall contract with a national, independent education consulting firm to assist in the unbiased selection of peer institutions for each West Virginia institution.
(5) The commission shall select peer institutions for each institution through an open, deliberative, objective process and in consultation with the institutional boards of governors or boards of advisors, as appropriate, intended to achieve broad understanding of the basis for this selection in the higher education community and the Legislature.
(6) Final peer selection is subject to the approval of the legislative oversight commission on education accountability.
(7) In selecting peer institutions, the commission shall use criteria such as, but not limited to:
(A) Institutional mission;
(B) Institutional size related to full-time equivalent students;
(C) The proportions of full-time and part-time students;
(D) The level of academic programs, including, but not limited to, number of degrees granted at the associate, baccalaureate, masters, doctoral and first-professional level;
(E) The characteristics of academic programs such as health sciences, professional, technical or liberal arts and sciences; and
(F) The level of research funding from federal competitive funding sources.
(8) Subject to the approval of the legislative oversight commission on education accountability, the commission shall review and make necessary adjustments to peer institutions at least every six years or as necessary based on changes in institutional missions as approved in institutional compacts or in changes at peer institutions. The commission shall review and make adjustments to peer institutions for community and technical colleges in collaboration with the council.
(9) Nothing herein prevents the commission from using the same peers or peer groups for more than one institution of higher education.