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University of Charleston to take over Mountain State U. campuses in W.Va.

MSU students in Martinsburg, Beckley will be able to complete their degrees this fall

August 01, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Exactly what degree programs the University of Charleston might offer in Martinsburg is not yet clear, but the president of the private West Virginia college said Wednesday it fully intends to launch a learning center here in wake of Mountain State University’s expected exodus.

"The likely scenario is that Mountain State will go out of business as of Dec. 31,” University of Charleston President Edwin Welch said Wednesday afternoon in a telephone interview after the schools announced a memorandum of understanding.

The agreement allows for Charleston to be Mountain State’s primary partner in a teach-out plan for students who are eligible to graduate by the end of 2012. Charleston faculty will teach classes at the Martinsburg and Beckley, W.Va., campuses of Mountain State University for the fall semester.

A separate agreement with Beckley-based Mountain State could allow Charleston to establish a four-year private college center in Martinsburg as well by the end of the year.

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“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that happens,” Welch said.

Welch said no meetings have been scheduled with students enrolled in classes at Mountain State’s Martinsburg campus, but expects that will happen as the college continues to determine current enrollment and other issues.

The Higher Learning Commission revoked Mountain State’s accreditation in June because of leadership, organizational and integrity issues. The accreditation later was extended to Dec. 31. Mountain State has said it plans to appeal its loss of accreditation.

Welch said MSU’s programs and courses will be assessed for viability, and will be staffed accordingly if Charleston decides it makes sense to continue to offer them.

Mountain State employees will receive “first priority” for any future staff openings, but still must go through Charleston’s employment process in order to be hired, Welch said.

“The closing of Mountain State University is sad and tragic for students, for faculty and staff, and for the Beckley and Martinsburg communities,” Welch said in a news release.

Welch said the University of Charleston is committed to maintain a private higher education presence in southern West Virginia and in the Eastern Panhandle, but cautioned in an interview Wednesday that there are some “caveats” that could affect the college’s presence in Martinsburg.

Welch said it was too early to say whether Charleston will use both facilities Mountain State now operates in Martinsburg. Mountain State bought the 79-acre Martinsburg Mall property at 800 Foxcroft Ave. in 2010 and unveiled a hybrid learning center there earlier this year. MSU’s other facility at 214 Viking Way in Martinsburg formerly was a retail outlet center. 

“This keeps a significant economic engine in Beckley,” Richard Sours, interim president of Mountain State, said in the release. “We are thrilled at this opportunity. This assures that a four-year college presence will continue in Beckley under the UC banner.”

Programs and personnel at all of Mountain State’s campuses will be evaluated by UC during the fall semester. Mountain State’s other campuses are in Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

University of Charleston spokesman Scott Castleman said agreements announced Wednesday were vetted by the Higher Learning Commission.

Castleman said the school hopes to continue as many of the programs offered by Mountain State as possible.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

To view University of Charleston's press conference, please follow this link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkqVS7fkDm0&feature=youtu.be

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