is a “proposed” settlement that has been accepted by representatives of
Mountain State University (MSU), Mountain State’s insurance company, the
students suing Mountain State, and the University of Charleston (UC). The proposed settlement will soon be filed
with a West Virginia state court for its “preliminary approval.” If the settlement receives preliminary
approval with the court, the terms of the settlement will be provided to the
affected parties, a hearing will be scheduled, and all affected parties will be
given an opportunity to be heard on the matter.
Final approval of the settlement would come at a later date, after this
process has been completed.
University of Charleston endorses the proposed settlement and believes that it
will ultimately be approved and implemented.
The responses to the Frequently Asked Questions below are based on this
belief and the University will initiate the described actions with the
assumption that the settlement will be approved and implemented.
What is the proposed
to resolve numerous lawsuits against Mountain State University (“MSU”) by
former MSU students without further protracted litigation, MSU has agreed to a
settlement of these lawsuits and related matters. The Regional Campuses of the University of
Charleston (“UC”) in Beckley and Martinsburg have been located on real estate
owned by MSU and leased to UC. In order to
fund the settlement, MSU has agreed to sell its real estate and the majority of
the contents of the buildings and related equipment to provide settlement funds
for the plaintiffs. UC understands the
need for the settlement and supports the settlement. As a consequence, UC must restructure its
academic program offerings and will not be able to remain on this real estate
and operate these Regional Campuses beyond the 2014-15 academic year.
What does the settlement really mean for
the University of Charleston?
proposed settlement will have no impact on program offerings in Charleston and
online, and there will be few changes for the 2014-15 academic year in regional
programs. UC will continue all but its
culinary arts programs at the current University of Charleston-Beckley
campus. In Martinsburg, UC will offer
selected programs at National Guard facilities. When the proposed settlement receives
“preliminary approval,” UC will no longer have the ability to use its
Martinsburg site, thus necessitating the move of programs to National Guard
facilities. After the 2014-15 academic
year, UC will no longer have the ability to use the facilities it is leasing from
MSU in Beckley.
term, UC intends to continue offering academic programs in Beckley. During the 2014-15 academic year, UC will
work with faculty, students, community representatives, and accreditors to
determine the number, format, and locations of the programs to be offered in
the Beckley area. For further
information see “Impact on Students” section of the FAQs.
As part of
the settlement, UC is giving up its lease of facilities in Martinsburg and
Beckley and as UC has provided a number of services to MSU and to Beckley,
out” MSU’s students following the loss of accreditation in 2012;
and maintaining MSU’s facilities since January 1, 2013;
contracts and leases formerly held by MSU;
the permanent holder of MSU’s student records; and
educational programs for students in a region that MSU, as a non-profit institution,
was previously providing;
settlement agreement provides UC upon preliminary approval by the court with a
payment of $750,000 and specified educational equipment that will allow UC to
continue teaching selected programs in Beckley. UC will also receive some
additional funds when the settlement receives final approval from the court and
otherwise becomes final and binding on all of the parties.
Why was a
MSU students who felt they were seriously harmed by MSU’s handling of the loss
of its nursing program accreditation and/or MSU’s closure sued MSU. A settlement was sought to provide financial
payments to the students, to resolve the many cases that existed and to reduce
the time and the cost of the extended litigation that would have occurred
without a settlement.
Why was the
University of Charleston involved in the negotiations?
has been leasing buildings, land and equipment owned by MSU so it could offer
UC’s programs to students who had been at MSU, make its educational programs
more accessible to students in the Martinsburg and Beckley areas and provide an
economic boost to those areas. Those facilities, leased to UC by MSU, are
assets that MSU has agreed to use to help settle its lawsuits. No settlement was
possible without resolving the status of these assets.
How did the
settlement come about?
have been many days of negotiation and mediation over an 11-month period between
representatives of former Mountain State students, Mountain State University
Mountain State’s insurance company and UC. In many of those days of negotiation
and mediation, the court also was involved and was very instrumental in
bringing all of the parties together to resolve many difficult issues.
Why did UC believe it could lease MSU’s
facilities for a longer period of time?
and UC entered into a master agreement and a long-term lease intended to
promote the parties’ mutual goals of promoting a successful launch of UC’s
regional campuses in Beckley and Martinsburg and UC’s distance learning
UC go to court to protect its interests?
participated in the negotiation and mediation of this complicated matter to
protect its interests. UC could have
litigated its rights and responsibilities under the “master agreement” and
leases with MSU, but it chose to agree to this settlement because:
- UC recognizes the plight of former MSU
students who are seeking compensation from MSU.
- Additional litigation would prolong the resolution
of UC’s interests and the cases of former MSU students for years.
- The cloud of lawsuits would make it difficult
for UC to recruit students to its regional programs
- At the end of any litigation of this nature,
there is always a chance a judge or a jury would decide against UC or reach a
decision that would prove far more problematic for UC than the negotiated
settlement reached by the parties with the assistance of the court.
- The settlement provides UC with partial
compensation for the services it has provided to MSU.
- UC wanted to insulate itself from future lawsuits
from former MSU students.
- The settlement allows UC, in an orderly
manner, to continue offering academic programs in Beckley, in Martinsburg, and
How long has
UC known about this?
final and very important elements of the settlement did not fall into place
until August 1, 2014. Although mediation
efforts began in August 2013, the conversations did not become focused until
UC announce this situation earlier?
was no settlement earlier. The
negotiation and mediation of these issues were a legal, court-directed process
that included a binding, confidentiality obligation on the parties. UC was not
allowed to disclose the progress of the negotiations. Any speculation about
what might happen would only have furthered the confusion and hurt of former
MSU students and employees and would have made it even more difficult for the
parties and the court to resolve all of the competing claims and interests.
this settlement impact students and various programs?
immediate impact of this settlement on current UC regional students is
minimal. Fewer than 20 students are affected
by the closure of the culinary arts programs that was previously announced and
by the closure of the Martinsburg Viking Way site. All other students will continue their
studies at the current UC-Beckley location or at National Guard facilities in
decisions about which programs will be offered in Beckley and at what location
will be announced as soon as decisions are made. UC will work with faculty, students,
community representatives, and accreditors in making these decisions. The changes will occur before the 2015-16
academic year. It is UC’s intention to
continue offering the following programs in Beckley even after the 2014-15
academic year: Associate Degree of
Nursing, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Education, Leadership, Occupational
Therapy Assistant, Radiologic Technology and Social Work. Decisions about programs in accounting,
biology, business administration, and psychology will be announced as soon as
they are made. The University of
Charleston’s commitment is to work with each Beckley and Martinsburg student
individually to clarify his/her path to graduation. Online students will not be affected by the
provide on-campus housing for students in Beckley?
Yes. UC plans to house residential students in
University Hall during the 2014-15 academic year. Future housing options will be announced as
soon as plans are in place.
students get more information about the impacts of the settlement?
communications will be sent to all UC students by August 15, 2014, with additional
information including contact information of people who can provide further
guidance. The emails will be sent to the
UC email addresses of students. As
long-term decisions are made about programs, students will be kept informed by
faculty members, academic administrators, and email communications.
FACULTY AND STAFF
employees are in Beckley and Martinsburg?
months ago, UC hired 90 full-time employees who had lost their jobs with the
closure of Mountain State University.
jobs will be lost as a result of the settlement?
immediate impact of the settlement is the loss of two positions in Martinsburg
and one in Beckley. Further decisions
about positions will be made according to the need for faculty, administrative,
and staff support for operations in Beckley, Charleston, and Martinsburg; the
contractual commitments made to faculty members for 2014-15; the University
policies governing administrative and staff appointments; and the requirements
of Federal and State laws.
will make every effort to work with and assist each regional employee whose
position will be affected by these decisions.
faculty and staff get more information about the impact of the settlement and
when decisions will be made?
and staff members will receive information about their employment from their department
directors as soon as decisions are made.
pulling out of Beckley?
No. UC is as committed today to serving Beckley
and students from Southern West Virginia as it was when it began offering
classes in Beckley in January 2013. The long-term loss of the MSU facilities will
require the University to offer programs and classes in different ways. UC will
offer on-campus classes in Beckley; hybrid classes in Beckley; weekend college
classes in Beckley and Charleston; online classes; and on-campus classes in
Charleston. The University will change its location in Beckley for the 2015-16
academic year and it will change some of its delivery methods, but it is not
pulling out of Beckley.
pulling out of Martinsburg?
Most of UC’s students in Martinsburg are members of the National Guard. The
university will continue to serve those students by offering classes at the
National Guard facilities in Martinsburg.
this settlement change UC’s regional growth plans?
long-term loss of MSU’s facilities has not changed UC’s online operation or
UC’s commitment to serve students from the Eastern Panhandle and Southern West
Virginia through a variety of learning options.
It has caused UC to discontinue the culinary arts programs in Beckley and
to transition other programs to new locations and perhaps in some cases to new
Has UC been
successful in its regional development?
has been successful in developing its regional programs. When UC began offering
regional classes in January 2013, only 400 MSU students remained from the
”teach out.” After graduating 335 regional students, the
Fall 2013 regional enrollment grew to 520 students. Recruitment for the
upcoming Fall 2014 term is running ahead of last year.
What have been
the outcomes of the regional expansion?
has already graduated 416 former MSU students who, without UC, would not have had
a clear path to complete their degrees. UC provided employment to 90 former MSU
faculty and staff members and added ten new programs. UC enrollment grew by more than 550 students,
and that growth will continue. The University has expanded its relationships with
and connections to civic leaders in Beckley and Martinsburg, Beckley College
alumni, New River Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, regional high
school leaders and counselors and many other organizations and individuals.
These stronger relationships will be mutually beneficial for years to come.
In the Spring of 2012, UC completed a
strategic planning process which determined that UC should expand its
enrollment toward 2,500 students, add new academic programs, move into online
education, gain economic efficiencies through the better use of technology,
reduce per student operational costs, and focus on the recruitment of West
Virginia students. The regional
expansion into Beckley, Martinsburg, and online education has helped UC to move
more quickly toward achieving each of these goals.
students does UC have now?
Spring 2014, enrollment was 1,885, including 564 regional students. UC is currently projecting an enrollment of
more than 2,000 for Fall 2014.
happen to UC’s online programs and classes?
online programs and classes will continue to grow. UC had no serious online
presence before January 2013.
consider buying the Beckley campus?
does not have the financial resources to buy the Beckley campus. UC will, however, pursue all possible options
for an appropriate site to meet the educational needs of students at UC-Beckley
after the 2014-15 academic year.
If UC had it
to do over again, would it seek to develop a regional presence?
UC was happy to answer the plight of MSU students who had no avenue for earning
their degrees and provide jobs for some of those who lost their employment with
MSU. In addition, the University
developed ten new academic programs it would not have had, acquired the
equipment and educational materials to support those programs, created an
online presence that it did not have, dramatically expanded its presence across
West Virginia and added more than 550 students to its overall enrollment. Though unexpected, the physical consolidation
of the University caused by the settlement will further strengthen UC while
allowing the regional expansion of UC’s educational services to continue.