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UC continues plans for MSU control

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --- The University of Charleston is preparing to hire faculty members and prepare courses before it takes over control of Mountain State University in January. But the fate of some of MSU's major assets, like the Martinsburg Mall, remains up in the air.

"We've been working with potential job candidates for the campuses in Beckley and Martinsburg, talking to their employees, and working with the Higher Learning Commission to firm-up our plans," said UC spokesman Scott Castleman.

In four months, UC will officially acquire Mountain State University's two campuses when MSU shuts down for good.

MSU became the first university in West Virginia history to lose its accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission in July after major breakdowns in leadership, integrity issues and program evaluations.

UC announced in August that they were taking over MSU's campuses to, as UC president Ed Welch said in a news conference, "fill the void that will be left and to maintaining a private higher education presence in Southern West Virginia and in the Eastern Panhandle."

But as MSU winds down operations, there are ongoing questions about what will become of some of the school's major assets, such as the Martinsburg Mall.

 Richard Sours, interim president of MSU, told the Register-Herald last week that there are no plans to sell the mall.

In July, Sours had said that MSU and the trustees were considering liquidating their assets and selling off property, including the 550,000 square-foot mall MSU owns in Martinsburg.

"If a buyer comes along and offers us a fair price for the mall, we'd be willing to sell that," Sours said at a court hearing in Kanawha County in July. 

MSU bought the 79-acre Martinsburg Mall property, located at 800 Foxcroft Ave. in Martinsburg, in 2010. MSU has a Martinsburg campus located about a mile away from the Martinsburg Mall off Viking Way.

MSU took out a $7 million loan from City National Bank in 2010 to acquire the Martinsburg Mall. The next year, MSU struck a new loan agreement with City National Bank for $10.2 million to pay off the original bank loan and fund improvements to better equip the Martinsburg Mall to house students.

Castleman said he could not provide details of what assets UC will acquire from MSU.

"Up until MSU closes in January, MSU and the board control all the assets," he said.

Reach Amy Julia Harris at amy.harris@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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