CHARLESTON, W.Va. —The University of Charleston and attorneys representing former students at the now defunct Mountain State University announced a proposed settlement Wednesday which will end numerous individual and class action lawsuits which followed the closing of the school in Beckley and Martinsburg.
More than 400 individual suits were filed along with at least two class action suits in state court and two in federal court when the school lost its accreditation. The largest group was about 600 nursing students who suffered the most harm when their program was stripped of accreditation a year before the entire school was discredited.
“The students were seeking damages from the closure of MSU and loss of accreditation, ” said plaintiff’s attorney Anthony Majestro. “That took the form of delayed educational opportunities, delayed entry into the workforce, student loans, expenses, it runs the whole gamut.”
Under the proposed settlement, which still needs court approval, a pool of money would be set up for those former MSU students to share. Funds for the pool of money come three three different sources. There will be a claim from Mountain State’s insurance company, an unknown amount of money owed to Mountain State by the U.S.Department of Education, and all real estate and assets at the former locations in Beckley and Martinsburg will be liquidated.
“We know there’s $8.5 million in insurance money going into the fund,” Majestro said. “The rest of the money, we’re not certain. MSU is still trying to resolve the amount of money its owed by the Department of Education and the sale of real estate is something nobody can predict with any certainty.”
Additionally, the University of Charleston will offer tuition assistance to those former Mountain State students who wish to attend U-C.
“We’re going to offer tuition assistance to this one group who have not completed their degree,” said University of Charleston President Ed Welch. “To help them come to the University of Charleston and complete their work.”
It’s unclear how many former students will be in the class to share in the money. The number could be as high as 14,000 ex-students who are still in limbo after Mountain State’s collapse. Welch pointed out 416 former Mountain State students have already completed a degree from the University of Charleston.
The sale of the properties will force the University of Charleston to vacate those facilities in Beckley and Martinsburg by the end of the 2014-15 academic year. Welch said despite the shift in satellite campus locations, they intend to continue their presence in both locations.
“We need to find a location in Beckley where we can continue to offer those programs,” said Welch. “We forecast the regional expansion will continue to grow. We’re excited about that and this just helps make the university a stronger university.”
The Martinsburg campus will transfer to the West Virginia National Guard facilities in Berkeley County and Welch said because most of the students served in the location are members of the National Guard he envisions the guard base will become the school’s permanent home in the eastern panhandle.
A court hearing is scheduled in October to take up the proposal.