The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 4, 2012

UC continues with plan for MSU while awaiting final OK

BECKLEY — The University of Charleston continues its plan to create a Beckley campus once Mountain State University has closed while awaiting final approval from the Higher Learning Commission.

In many ways, the University of Charleston, MSU students hoping to continue, and employees of the closing school are all in limbo.

University of Charleston president Dr. Ed Welch explained, “There is no crystal ball that says how things will turn out, but we have every reason to believe our plan to create a private, four-year institution in Beckley will happen. We are in limbo, but we continue to plan as if everything will come to fruition.”

The plan includes hiring some of the existing staff under the UC umbrella.

Welch said UC will be in contact and will begin conversations with those administrators, faculty and staff they want to continue to employ past the May teach-out deadline by Oct. 19.

“We have set the deadline for ourselves of Oct. 19. People we have talked with by Oct. 19 will know that we want to work with them. Sadly, the people we have not talked with will know that we cannot employ them with the university,” Welch said.

Welch added that the university would like to forecast a larger student population for Fall 2013 and thus be able to employ more individuals. But the fall university population is far from solidified.

Today, there are about 400 students who can graduate by May and who are on track to take part in the MSU/UC teach-out plan.

Welch said there are approximately 200 more students who could continue beyond May if the University of Charleston is granted permission to take over as a satellite location.

Welch said the University of Charleston has submitted many requests to the Higher Learning Commission, including requests to continue programs that existed at Mountain State and to start programs that were not offered at MSU, but have been offered at the University of Charleston.

The president expects the Higher Learning Commission to respond to each of the school’s requests at its December meeting.

“We’d love for the word to come sooner. The sooner we can say, ‘Here are our programs, here is what tuition is going to be, here are the requirements for admission, come check us out,’ the better off everyone will be. And the day we get permission from the Higher Learning Commission to say that, we will,” Welch said.

He also noted the accrediting agency has been supportive and helpful during the recent months’ transitions.

“The Higher Learning Commission has been extraordinarily supportive of this transition. They have taken creative, unprecedented steps to make the teach-out happen and to speed up their process to get information to the board for their decision.”

Welch also noted that University of Charleston, under the teach-out plan, is responsible for all MSU students at other locations.

UC has also expressed interest in replacing MSU’s presence at the Martinsburg Mall location to create another UC satellite.

At this point, the University of Charleston does not anticipate replacing MSU at its out-of-state locations.

“We want to make sure that what we do, we do well and are not so stretched out and trying to do so much that we are overly challenged. We will continue distance education for students in other states, but will not take over those centers in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida,” Welch said.

He also noted that thus far the Kanawha County-based school has not hit any roadblocks in its stake at MSU’s main campus and hopes to soon be able to offer the community a total of 31 different sets of programs in Beckley, including many of the programs previously offered by MSU.

“The community has been very supportive — and still is. We are grateful for that and look forward to a very positive partnership.”

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