(a) The intent of the Legislature in enacting this section is to create the framework for establishing an educational delivery system to address findings that:
(1) The strength of the economy of the state of West Virginia is directly affected by the percentage of the available work force possessing college degrees and/or an advanced vocational-technical education from which an employer may draw;
(2) Real and perceived barriers within West Virginia and its systems of higher education, such as the cost of a college education, the availability of appropriate course work at locations and times convenient for students with families and/or jobs, and inadequate preparation for college-level work, have created road blocks for West Virginians in achieving their educational goals and, in turn, have limited the economic opportunities available to them and the state of West Virginia; and
(3) Because of the state's history of a low college-going rate and a low percentage of state residents who hold college degrees, meeting the current and future work force needs of West Virginia will require attention to the needs of working-age adults for upgrading their skills, continuing their educations, preparing for new careers and other lifelong learning pursuits, in addition to attending to the educational needs of traditional college age students.
(b) Such a delivery system should employ the best available technology and qualified instructors to provide courses of instruction to students at remote locations by means of electronic transmission and computer assisted instruction. The delivery system should make maximum use of the currently existing resources, facilities, equipment and personnel in the state's systems of public and higher education and other educational and administrative agencies and should be low-tuition, commuter-oriented, open door admissions, serving adults of all ages. The courses of instruction offered through such a system should be relevant to the needs of the target population as expressed in the major findings listed in subsection (a) of this section and should meet the several goals of helping students to prepare for college level work, to increase their likelihood of securing gainful employment given their other relevant life circumstances, to obtain higher education core curriculum course work that is universally accepted at all state institutions of higher education with the grade earned and to minimize the amount of additional course work they will be required to take at less convenient times and locations to achieve their educational goals. The delivery system should also include adequate student support services such as student advising, career counseling, library access and immediate interaction with peers and instructors.
(c) The secretary of education and the arts is responsible for establishing a three-year pilot program consisting of no more than eight sites within the state for the delivery of educational programs consistent with the goals established in this section. To assist in the development of this program, the secretary shall appoint an advisory committee comprised of persons from public education, higher education, the West Virginia distance learning coordinating council, the Legislature and the business community. In consultation with the advisory committee, the secretary shall contract with the appropriate governing board or other body to offer courses or programs of various levels and types to meet the objectives of this section. The contracts shall specify the pilot sites for offering the educational programs, the various technologies for program delivery, the types of courses to be offered, the course instructors and site coordinators and their training, the fees to be charged, the institutions in the state willing to enroll the student participants, the collection of tuition and fees, a method for accounting for the funds collected and expended and other issues relevant to program administration. There is hereby established in the state treasury a special revolving fund within the account of the secretary of education and the arts into which appropriations, course fees, charitablecontributions and other moneys received by the secretary for the purposes of the program shall be paid for expenditures in the operation of the pilot program. During each year of the pilot program, the secretary shall report to the governor and the Legislature on the progress of the program, whether it should be continued or discontinued, and, if continued, any recommended modifications in program scope and mission and any action which is necessary on behalf of the governor or the Legislature to improve the success of the program. At the end of the pilot program, the secretary shall make a final report to the governor and the Legislature as to whether the findings set forth in this section are being addressed through such an educational delivery system and shall recommend whether it should become permanent. If the secretary recommends that the delivery system should become permanent, the secretary shall also recommend specific structures for program support and administration, instructional development and objectives, technology, student support services and other relevant policy issues.