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Meetings aim to help university transition

University of Charleston officials are meeting this week with students and staff previously or currently affiliated with Mountain State University to ease their transition to UC.

Today and Wednesday, professors from UC and Mountain State will meet with students in Beckley to talk about the academic requirements of those students as they move forward, said UC spokesman Scott Castleman.

UC has also hired 27 non-faculty employees who once worked at Mountain State, Castleman said. A two-day new employee orientation session for the workers wraps up today, he said.

In July, the Higher Learning Commission, a regional body that oversees institutions of higher education, cited continued academic, financial and administrative problems as cause to revoke Mountain State's accreditation.

Shortly thereafter, UC announced it would serve as Mountain State's main partner in its "teach out plan," a guide meant to help current Mountain State students in their continued pursuit of higher education. UC will also take over operations at facilities Mountain State ran in Beckley and Martinsburg.

The commission agreed to let Mountain State keep its accreditation until the end of the year, and the university is appealing the decision. Mountain State Interim President Richard Sours said Monday the formal appeal hearing scheduled for Oct. 30 was cancelled because of the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

The appeal will be rescheduled, but Sours isn't sure of that date yet. He hopes to have it done as soon as possible, though. In the event Mountain State wins its appeal, Sours said there is still a good chance the university will close.

The commission must also approve of several aspects of UC's plan, namely opening the new centers in Beckley and Martinsburg and the creation of new graduate-level programs. That decision is expected in December.

In the meantime, UC has appointed Dr. Jerry Forster as the area president of its UC-Beckley center and continues to prepare take full control Jan. 1.

"We're looking forward to advising sessions this week in Beckley. This is another step in continuing UC's ongoing teach-out program with Mountain State University, as well as confirming our commitment to establishing a long-term presence in Southern West Virginia," Forster said in an emailed comment.

More than 100 Mountain State students submitted transfer applications to UC in the days following the announced partnership, but Castleman said only 39 have officially transferred. He thought the announcement gave students the piece of mind to remain in Beckley at Mountain State, especially if they were close to graduating.

Castleman thought there were about 1,000 students still taking courses through Mountain State, with about 400 attending in Beckley.

Students slated for graduation at the end of this semester will still graduate from Mountain State. Those who intend to graduate in May can also graduate as Mountain State students under Mountain State's requirements, but UC personnel will deliver that curriculum for the spring semester. Anyone at Mountain State who will not graduate by the spring will need to transfer to UC or another school if they intend to continue their education.

This week's sessions are meant to help only those current Mountain State students who plan to transfer to UC, Castleman said. Advisors will be available from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the John W. Eye Conference Center. Students who want to attend should email studentsuccess@mountainstate.edu or call 866-497-4111 to register. 


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