Last week the Higher Learning Commission announced that it has withdrawn accreditation from West Virginia's Mountain State University, a private Beckley-based school with satellite campuses in Center Township, Pennsylvania; Martinsburg, West Virginia; Mooresville, North Carolina and Orlando, Florida. The decision, which was made by the HLC's Board of Trustees, will go into effect August 27th.
Commission board members concluded that Mountain State "has not conducted itself with the integrity expected of an accredited institution with regard to ensuring that its students have accurate and timely information about the status of their academic programs and consistent quality across all academic programs," the notice said.
The commission cited failures by administrators to correct problems with the school's nursing program that led to its loss of accreditation from state and national nursing accrediting bodies. It also said Mountain State has had a culture that focused on high enrollment growth instead of program quality and oversight.
The HLC gave MSU until July 27th to file their appeal. Within hours of the HLC's June 28th decision being made public, the Chairman of MSU's Board of Trustees Jerry Ice announced that the school will take advantage of the appeals process. The school's Interim President Richard Sours protested the commission's decision, calling in "unwarranted," and adding that yanking the general accreditation was premature in light of the sweeping changes the school planned to adopt in order to meet the accreditation requirements.
The HLC is expected to take between ten and sixteen weeks to come to a decision on the school's appeal, and MSU will retain its accreditation until the final ruling is made.
Last year, the commission was notified of an accreditation irregularity in the school's nursing program, and the questions raised by the subsequent review triggered an overall investigation to determine if the school could continue to be accredited by the HLC. This is the same process that resulted in the school being placed on the "show cause" status.
The loss of the school's primary accreditation places the current and perspective students in a difficult position — students like 31-year-old Kirk Mulcahy, who was enrolled in a bachelor's degree program to become a medical stenographer.
"I can either leave MSU with no degree and no debt, or leave with $60,000 in debt for an associate degree I didn't want," said Mulcahy, a resident of Fayetteville. "What a horrible decision."
If MSU isn't able to reverse the revocation, it would mean that its students would no longer be able to receive any kind of federal or local financial aid.