CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Higher Learning Commission on Tuesday approved the University of Charleston's full takeover of Mountain State University Tuesday, expanding the private school to Beckley and Martinsburg.
The new additions -- UC-Beckley, UC-Martinsburg and online program UC-Net -- will offer instruction beginning next month. UC made an agreement with MSU, which had its accreditation withdrawn earlier this year after a series of leadership and program oversight problems, to lease space on the Beckley and Martinsburg campuses.
UC classes will be held in the academic buildings that were once used for MSU operations beginning Jan. 14. Online sessions begin Jan. 7.
After MSU's accreditation was withdrawn in June, it was reinstated through the month of December in order to allow UC to implement a "teach-out" program for MSU students eligible to graduate in 2012.
The school will continue that teach-out program for students through May of 2013. Those students will be taught by UC professors and will graduate with a UC degree, but will continue to operate under MSU academic standards.
Students who cannot graduate by May must apply to become UC students and adhere to UC academic standards. UC's application fee will be waived for those students to smooth the transition process.
"This is a historic day for the University of Charleston. Some things are called historic but are not. I think the term fits today's occasion," UC President Ed Welch said at a press conference Tuesday.
"The confusion and heartbreak experienced by MSU students when they learned it was going to lose its accreditation at the end of this month is now replaced with a clear path forward. They can enroll at UC today," Welch said. "The community leaders of Beckley and the residents of Southern West Virginia who were fearful of losing one of their most significant building blocks can now know that there will be a private, four-year college located there, working with and serving that region."
UC will now offer more than 30 programs across campuses and expects an influx of 600 students for the spring semester, bringing the school's total enrollment to about 2,000 students.
UC has also hired 65 former MSU faculty and staff members in Beckley and three in Martinsburg. Jerry Forster, a former UC administrator and longtime education leader, will serve as area president and direct UC's operations at both locations.