West Virginia University on Wednesday announced its long-awaited plans to purchase the Mountain State University campus with an offer of $8 million.
MSU trustees have indicated their intent to accept the offer, subject to court approval, according to a media release from WVU.
"After the initial due-diligence period, it became quite clear that West Virginia University truly has a unique opportunity to better serve the people of the state by having a presence in Beckley," said WVU President E. Gordon Gee. "We look forward to creating a collaborative, innovative and forward-thinking campus to create the best educational environment for all students of our state."
Rob Alsop, vice-president of Legal, Government and Entrepreneurial Engagement, said WVU hopes to begin offering classes here as early as next January and have a full academic program in place by fall 2016.
Alsop said that WVU-Tech at Montgomery will not close as a result of the purchase, but will support the mission in Beckley with administrative staff, as well as through shared courses, which would make for cost-savings.
"We've been looking at the roster of courses offered at Tech and maybe there's some innovative ways that those classes could be taught at both places," he said.
WVU-Tech has some high-dollar infrastructure needs, he said. At a price tag of $70 million, Alsop said, the infrastructure needs in renovating the Montgomery campus could factor into higher education decisions the state makes.
The state just cut WVU's budget by $5 million, which the university is absorbing through budget cuts, including canceling salary increases.
Alsop said the cuts did spark some questions about where the money might best be spent — Morgantown or Beckley.
But, he noted, Gee's mission has been to permeate the state with a greater, not lesser, WVU presence.
"The president has been pretty clear that we have a statewide mission first," Alsop said. And, he said, the financial model for the Beckley campus is for it to be self-sustaining and efficient, noting it would have to be both.
Although the state's largest university is branching into new territories, Alsop said WVU comes to southern West Virginia to complement, not to compete with other higher educational institutions, such as Concord University, Bluefield State College and New River Community and Technical College.
"It's an interesting concept to start out with a new campus," Alsop said. "Maybe there are programs they are offering at the undergraduate level that we could offer at the master's level and that would increase demand, not only for our program, but for their program."
He said WVU officials would collaborate with administrators at the other area universities to strengthen educational opportunities for the region.
Mountain State University closed in early 2013 after losing its accreditation. The University of Charleston stepped in to offer classes for students who were nearing their graduation date.
Alsop said UC has "certain rights" under the settlement agreement, but would leave the campus when its lease is up at the end of June.
More than 14,000 students have with claims against MSU; their attorneys have seven days to approve the offer from WVU. If they do, the money will be placed in a settlement pool.
"We still have a number of hurdles," he said. "We still have some work to do."
Alsop said once those days are past, the WVU presence will have a big impact on the City of Beckley. He said the state will need 20,000 more college graduates over the next six years.
"We think our presence in Beckley and collaborating with other institutions, we can help grow that pie," he said. "We're an economic driver, and being involved in Beckley will be helpful to southern West Virginia."
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