HEPC officials to recommend reauthorization of Wheeling University

WHEELING, W.Va. — The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission officials that performed on-site visits at Wheeling University this week will recommend to its board that the institution be reauthorized for the next year.

HEPC interim chancellor Sarah Tucker made the announcement on Wednesday evening during a press conference at Wheeling University (WU) alongside Gov. Jim Justice, 1st District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and city officials.

Tucker said she spoke with her team on Wednesday afternoon about the decision.

Sarah Tucker

“I debriefed with them very quickly because I was on the road up from Charleston as they were on the road back to Charleston. I asked them how the site visit went and they told me they would be recommending to the commission on Friday morning that this institution is reauthorized for the next year,” she said.

The vote is scheduled for Friday following multiple postponements with the most recent being August 2. The latter postponement took place after the school’s president and vice president were put on administrative leave.

HEPC members in academic affairs, financial aid, finance and legal visited WU, formerly known as Wheeling Jesuit, on Tuesday and Wednesday to speak with to the students, faculty, and staff.

For reauthorization, the HEPC wanted to see a teach-out plan for current students in programs that were eliminated, a formal plan that demonstrates the current financial stability and future viability of WU, the results of a financial audit on expenditures related to scholarships and endowments, and frequent status updates and shared communications with the HLC.

On Monday in a letter, Justice urged the HEPC to do everything possible to keep WU open.

Jim Justice

“This school is not closing on my watch,” Justice said to the standing room only crowd Wednesday.

“There’s still boogers in the closest that we have to clean up but you have a lot of people here. From the diocese to your great congressman, to your governor, to the great people in your administration, to all the wonderful people working here in every way. To this incredible community, to your county commissioners, to your mayor, everybody right here is pulling the rope.”

McKinley spoke to the crowd Wednesday and voiced a personal connection with the institution and will do everything possible to right the ship.

David McKinley

He said he took summer classes there as a student and his brother-in-law, mother, and grandmother have all went to school or worked there.

The university has gone through turmoil over the past year starting with school officials declaring financial exigency in March.

MetroNews reported WU cut of 20 full-time faculty and 19 undergraduate programs followed by the end of its Jesuit affiliation in the spring.

The official vote for reauthorization for the university, that allows for degrees to be given and scholarships to be provided, will be on Friday morning in Charleston.

“Wheeling University has a very long-standing history of serving students in this community and this region,” Tucker said. “All that we all want to do is make sure this institution is successful.”

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