By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
9:33 PM EDT, September 6, 2012
Mountain State University is consolidating operations at the private college’s Martinsburg campus and is leaving space it recently renovated at Martinsburg Mall, administrators said Thursday.
There are 67 students enrolled at the school’s Martinsburg campus, which is down substantially from the spring semester when more than 100 were enrolled in the school’s hybrid learning program alone, according to Martinsburg campus executive director David Shahan. There are now nine students in the hybrid learning program, Shahan said.
The Beckley, W.Va-based college, which is expected to go out of business Dec. 31 due to accreditation problems, closed its Martinsburg campus bookstore this week and also moved the campus testing center from the Martinsburg Mall to its University Center property at 214 Viking Way.
“Our current enrollment doesn’t require both of those spaces,” Mountain State interim president Richard Sours said of the moves to consolidate.
While Mountain State University will cease operations, the University of Charleston (W.Va.) has agreed to help teach students who are about to graduate.
The University of Charleston also has committed to establishing a branch campus in Martinsburg, and spokesman Scott Castleman said this week that remains an important part of the private college’s plan going forward.
Castleman said applications were being filed this week by the University of Charleston with the Higher Learning Commission to offer certain programs, but couldn’t release specifics pending the accrediting body’s decision.
Sours said he expects the assets of Mountain State University Inc. eventually will be transferred to the University of Charleston, but he didn’t know what action Mountain State’s board of governors might take regarding the mall.
Mountain State bought the 79-acre mall property in 2010 and unveiled a hybrid learning center there earlier this year.
“We would sell the mall if we recouped our investment,” Sours said.
The retail center is held by the Mountain State University Building Co., which is controlled by the college.
Even before the accreditation issues proved to be insurmountable this summer, the college considered selling the mall with the condition that Mountain State be able to lease the space it renovated, Sours said.
“I don’t know what will happen to the mall, that is something we haven’t talked too much about,” Sours said.
Given the mall’s viability as a retail center, Sours said it made more sense to consolidate academic operations at the Viking Way location despite the fact that the mall space is newer.
Sours said plans are in the works to redevelop the anchor store space formerly held by Sears at the mall and also mentioned the planned opening of an Olive Garden restaurant, which is being built on an outparcel of the mall property.
“The mall will continue to function, that is quite a viable entity,” Sours said.
While Mountain State University Inc. will not operate after the end of the year, Sours said the corporation will not be dissolved until after lawsuits filed against the school are resolved and all other obligations are met.
“We will have paid all of our bills by Jan. 1,” Sours said.
Sours said the University of Charleston would not “inherit” many students when it takes over the Martinsburg campus Jan. 1, describing Mountain State University’s woes as a “sad, sad state of affairs.”
Sours said he expects it will take some time for the University of Charleston to “build back up” what was lost.
At one time, there were more than 300 students enrolled in Mountain State’s nursing program at the Martinsburg campus, Sours said.
As of Monday, there were 1,070 students enrolled at all of the Mountain State campuses, Sours said.
There were about 3,000 students enrolled in April at the college, according to a published report about a lawsuit filed by three students against Mountain State University.
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