CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice is asking the state Higher Education Policy Commission to do everything possible to keep Wheeling University open.

Justice, in a letter dated Monday, told the commission’s interim chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker his staff is working with university management to “evaluate the future viability of the university and ensure that all of the students have an opportunity to successfully complete their degrees in the coming years.”

Steve Rotsch/Governor's Office

Gov. Jim Justice

Justice’s letter is dated a day before a team with the commission begins a two-day on-site evaluation of the university — previously Wheeling Jesuit University — to understand the institution’s health. The commission was supposed to vote on reauthorizing the university at its Aug. 2 meeting, but the vote was delayed following news the institution’s president and vice president were placed on administrative leave.

The university’s future remains cloudy; officials announced in March that 20 full-time faculty and 19 undergraduate programs would be cut. In April, the university announced it was ending its Jesuit affiliation, which went into effect in July.

Justice said in his letter his office has spoken to representatives of the Catholic Diocese of West Virginia, which told Justice it has a “long-term vested interest” in keeping the university open; the diocese made a $2 million gift to the university at the start of the month.

Armstrong recently told MetroNews the evaluation team will consist of members of academic affairs, financial aid, finance and legal offices.

A reauthorization vote is scheduled for Friday.

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