CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Public and private colleges in West Virginia are moving quickly to take in both individual students and entire programs at Mountain State University as that school appeals the loss of its general accreditation, state higher education officials told legislators Monday.
Officials have also sought to assure the more than 900 Mountain State students who have qualified for state-level financial aid that this aid remains valid and can move with them to another institution, said Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Paul Hill.
The Higher Learning Commission, which oversees standards for a 19-state region, announced earlier this month that it would revoke Mountain State's accreditation as of Aug. 27 because of ongoing leadership, organizational and integrity issues. Although the private Beckley-based university would keep its accreditation while it appeals, a 10- to 16-week process that administrators there have vowed to pursue, Hill discounted its chances.
"The assumption is, quite frankly, that it will stand," Hill told the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability. "These rulings are very hard to overturn."
Besides leaving students with worthless degrees, the lack of accreditation means Mountain State cannot take in new students and becomes ineligible for financial aid programs. It must also put together a "teach-out" plan, due Monday, for current students now unable to complete their programs there, said Chancellor James Skidmore of the state's Community and Technical College Council.
Mountain State began the last academic year with nearly 3,300 full-time undergraduate and graduate students and another 1,328 attending part-time, according to school figures. Besides its Beckley campus, the university has facilities in Martinsburg as well as Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. It also offers extensive online coursework, and says it serves about 8,200 students nationwide.
The school announced Monday it will cut half its workforce university-wide Sept. 21. The move affects administrators, faculty and staff.
Public institutions reaching out to Mountain State students include New River Community and Technical College in Beckley, which is working to help 16 first-year radiologic technology students complete their associate degrees, Skidmore said.