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WVU had no interest in Martinsburg campus

Journal photo by Ron Agnir The former Mountain State University campus in Martinsburg was sold Friday to a limited liability company after West Virginia University expressed no interest in the property.
Journal photo by Ron Agnir
The former Mountain State University campus in Martinsburg was sold Friday to a limited liability company after West Virginia University expressed no interest in the property.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The sale of the now-defunct Mountain State University’s campuses in Martinsburg and Beckley is moving ahead, after receiving needed approval from a three-judge panel on Friday.

As a result, West Virginia University will pay $8 million to take over the Beckley campus and continue to use it for higher education. The smaller, local parcel has been sold for $2 million to a Mechanicsville, Virginia-based limited liability company called Viking Way Holdings, according to The Associated Press.

WVU Board of Governors Chairman Jim Dailey, a Martinsburg business owner, said the university had no interest in acquiring the local parcel and using it for higher education.

Dailey said university leaders decided to instead focus on the Beckley campus for several reasons, including the existence of Blue Ridge Community and Technical College as well as Shepherd University that are already serving local higher education needs.

“Higher education is already well represented here and are doing a fine job, so there really was nothing we felt we could add,” Dailey said. “As a result, we decided we were not interested in developing an educational component for Eastern Panhandle students.”

It’s a different situation in Beckley, where “there will now be a WVU facility for sure,” Dailey said.

Although the purchase has been approved, the project is still in a “study period” with university officials looking at the facilities and developing an educational plan that will best serve students in that part of the state, he said.

While it may be possible for WVU students to attend classes there in the fall, it is more likely that won’t be possible until spring term 2016, Dailey said.

Dailey said he’s not yet heard definite plans for the local, former campus, but he believes it will most likely be retail or commercial. It is located in the former Tanger Centre, a plaza that currently has other tenants including the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce.

Most recently this space was leased by the University of Charleston as one of its regional campuses and billed as having been designed to serve “working adults.” Plans to cease operations there and move classes to the National Guard armory were announced in August 2014.

That was due to a proposed settlement between MSU and former students who sued it as part of a class-action lawsuit, which cleared the way for the former campus to be sold to help raise funds needed for a settlement pool.

MSU lost its accreditation in August 2012, after the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools made that unusual decision due to concerns about the quality of its academic programs – including the closing of its undergraduate nursing program, as well as other continuing financial and leadership problems.

Under a subsequent court settlement, money from the selling of the property goes into a fund that will be distributed to those plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

A school website previously stated that MSU closed effective Jan. 1, 2013.

Meanwhile, the purchase of the Mountain State University campus in Beckley has cast a shadow on WVU’s Institute of Technology in Montgomery.

The two campuses are approximately 40 miles apart, with 1,200 students attending WVU Tech.

A 2011 state audit found major financial and enrollment problems as well as infrastructure and student life issues at WVU Tech. The latter included a lack of student access to wireless Internet on campus.

The audit led to the elimination of the school’s football program later that year. WVU Tech also has addressed some of its shortcomings.

WVU President E. Gordon Gee called Tech’s future existence “very secure,” but he wouldn’t tell The Charleston Daily Mail whether it will remain in Montgomery.

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