The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 8, 2013

Facing the challenges

UC-Beckley is truly a work in progress

— There is no doubt, the University of Charleston approached its opportunity with a branch campus in Beckley as an investment.

Because there are no immediate financial returns.

UC has to be in it for the long haul, and by all appearances, it is.

“The financial challenge is significant,” said UC-Beckley President Jerry Forster at a Rotary meeting this week. “We have 520 students enrolled and we need 1,000 to break even.”

Forster further explained that currently there are “$2 in expenses for every $1 in revenue for this first semester.”

That is to be expected, given the news of the last several months on the former campus of Mountain State University.

With accreditation problems that MSU faced and its ultimate loss of accreditation as an institution, Beckley faced losing a higher education option with great value to southern West Virginia.

The University of Charleston was among a number of suitors to express an interest in MSU after the accreditation crisis heightened last summer. The MSU board of trustees reportedly had a number of other schools express interest, but decided on negotiating with the Charleston-based school. From there, after UC received accreditation approval from the HLC, the MSU board made it possible for them to quickly set up shop by providing UC with the access to utilize existing campus buildings, equipment and other state-of-the art technology instead of entertaining other offers.

Now, UC has taken the next step to add its own educational opportunities and the outlook is good.

With trust being regained, and stability growing with each passing day, UC-Beckley is primed to become a viable choice for both traditional-age college students and nontraditional career-minded individuals as well.

One of the most disappointing of MSU’s problems was in its nursing program, an area of great need for West Virginia.

But Forster has stated “there are other key programs we need to rebuild that are a year or two away. One of those is nursing. We need a four-year nursing program.”

Our hope is that UC-Beckley will begin to prosper as its programs are rebuilt over the next few years.

Because a healthy four-year college in our area is a significant piece of the puzzle for our well-being and prosperity.

Not only will it prepare students for the future with a high-caliber education, but it will provide much-needed economic value here as well.

Forster emphasized the university’s commitment to the opportunity, adding that the current state of the institution may be a step backward initially, but “we are confident it is going to be a step forward two or three years down the road.”

With a solid plan in place and a commitment to see it through, one can expect success for UC-Beckley.

Which will be a plus for southern West Virginia too.