A bill like SB 375 could have changed the fate of Mountain State University in Beckley, which will be forced to close its doors at the end of the year.
University students have suffered a
roller coaster of emotions after the Higher Learning Commission decided to withdraw
the school’s accreditation effective Dec. 31.
Students were told last week
teach-out plans for those who can graduate by the end of the year will be
provided with the help of the University
of Charleston, at the Beckley
and Martinsburg MSU campuses. UC plans
to open centers in these facilities once MSU closes for good.
Over the last month students
have been scrambling to salvage the time, credits earned and money invested
into their MSU education.
Some students have transferred
what credits they could to other schools, while others are thinking they will
have to start all over.
At the same time, 91
full-time faculty, 305 part-time faculty, and an undisclosed number of
administrators, support and maintenance staff will lose their jobs.
Senate Bill 375 is meant
to better protect a higher education institution and its community. The bill develops minimum standards for ALL
higher education institutions, both public and private.
University is a private
not-for-profit institution and therefore a lot of information was not made
public. Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Dr.
Paul Hill explains.
“Any private school a lot of their information is not made available
publicly,” Hill said. “So we don’t know for example the exact number of
students. We don’t know a lot of the details about the curriculum. We don’t
know information about the financial stability of the institution which is a criterion
for long term planning for that institution and whether degrees will be offered
“So being a private non-profit is different from being a
public institution where we have an ongoing relationship and collect data.”
The Higher Learning Commission notes several reasons why MSU
lost its accreditation, including poor leadership, lack of qualified
administrators, the institution’s unsound financial standing, academic quality,
This bill requires higher education institutions to provide reports
annually, among other things. The report will include graduation rates, costs
of tuition, general information about financial aid, how the institution has
performed in the past and more. It’s then up to the West Virginia Higher
Education Policy Commission, or HEPC, to re-authorize the school to do
“There is no specific relationship here to MSU,” he said. “Senate
Bill 375 was intended to prevent the types of things that we’re seeing here in
“It’s not just one time you begin operating in the state and
that’s the end of it. Now l 375 gives us ongoing oversight of those
institutions of being authorized to do business here and they must offer
Now online schools and private institutions like the University
of Charleston will be monitored
more closely by the HEPC. Dr. Edwin Welch is president of the University
“The Mountain State
University issue has illustrated
the need for somebody to be protecting the interests of students and consumers
of higher education in West Virginia.”
But two of the largest schools in the state, Marshall
and West Virginia University,
are exempt from providing the report to the HEPC, and that doesn’t settle well
“I think that all institutions should be treated the same,”
he said. “If the reauthorization makes sense for state colleges and makes sense
for private colleges then it makes sense for the big public universities.”
Chancellor Hill says
that while WVU and Marshall remain exempt from annual re-authorizations, both institutions are required to turn in data annually, which is
posted on the Commission's website.
The Commission’s review
board will consider a final set of oversight rules at a meeting Friday. Hill
says the Legislature will have final approval.