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State officials revoke authorization from Alderson Broaddus, order the start of a wind-down

Financially-troubled Alderson Broaddus University had its authorization pulled today during an emergency meeting of the Higher Education Policy Commission, and state higher education officials prepared an order leading to its wind-down.

Commissioners voted unanimously to revoke Alderson Broaddus’s authorization to confer degrees in the state effective this December 31.

The revocation means the institution is not permitted to enroll new students beginning this fall semester. However, seniors scheduled to graduate at the end of the fall term may return to complete their degrees on schedule.

Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker

“While I truly wish there had been a viable path forward for Alderson Broaddus University to continue operating, our foremost priority is to help their students continue their education as seamlessly as possible,” stated Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor of Higher Education.

“We have been working with other colleges and universities in the state, and we are grateful to have institutions that are eager to help these students transfer and complete their degrees. The Commission takes its role in authorizing private institutions to operate within West Virginia very seriously. This is a role that the Legislature entrusted us with to safeguard students, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

As part of its duties outlined in state law, the commission is responsible for annually authorizing private institutions to confer degrees in West Virginia. Alderson Broaddus, which is a private university, has the right to appeal the Commission’s decision by submitting a written notice within 10 days.

Alderson Broaddus officials objected to the abrupt nature of the meeting, noting that university leaders had flown to Chicago today for a key meeting on Tuesday with a national accrediting body.

“We’re being victimized by rumors and innuendo,” said James Garvin, president of the university’s board of trustees, who unsuccessfully asked for a two-day continuance.

The Higher Education Policy Commission called this afternoon’s emergency meeting to address “the rapidly deteriorating financial condition.” The emergency meeting was meant “to address an imminent material financial loss or other imminent substantial harm to the public entity, its employees.”

Higher education officials took action after receiving and confirming information that led them to conclude Alderson Broaddus University’s financial condition renders the institution unable to create a stable, effective, and safe learning environment for its students.

Among the alarms: Alderson Broaddus has been asking for donations from alumni to meet payroll, both their last payroll and their next payroll that is due this Friday.

The first day of the fall semester had been coming up August 21. Some student athletes and international students were to arrive on campus as soon as this week.

“Can you imagine being these students? Can you imagine being their parents or loved ones right now, not knowing if this institution can remain open for the duration of the semester?” Tucker said.

“Given the financial information I’ve provided thus far, a mid-semester closure seems to be inevitable, leaving the students at grave financial and academic risk.”

The Commission’s vote today also included authorizing the Chancellor to enter an order directing the steps Alderson Broaddus must take to wind down its operations. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Not accepting, admitting, or enrolling new students beginning with the Fall 2023 semester;
  • Not returning any current students to campus for the Fall 2023 semester, except for seniors scheduled to graduate at the end of the semester who wish to return to complete their degrees;
  • Developing and executing appropriate plans related to the online teach-out and/or transfer of currently enrolled students;
  • Immediately ending all athletic and extracurricular activities;
  • Notifying all currently enrolled students of this loss of authorization and a detailed explanation of how this action directly affects them, what support services are being provided to them, and what actions they must take to obtain transcripts to transfer to another institution or complete graduation requirements at the University;
  • Making advisors accessible and posting those hours to meet with all currently enrolled students, either virtually or in person, to advise them of options to transfer to other institutions of higher education;
  • Providing transcripts and financial aid records and/or assistance to students;
  • Distributing degrees and certificates to students who have completed program requirements;
  • Reimbursement to students, except those seniors who return for the Fall 2023 semester to complete their programs of study, of any payments that have been made for tuition and fees for the Fall 2023 semester; and
  • Any other necessary and appropriate student services as specified by the Chancellor.

West Virginia Wesleyan College, in nearby Buckhannon, distributed a statement saying it “stands ready to serve all current or incoming Alderson Broaddus students at this difficult time. We will provide these students with fast and free priority application and thorough transcript evaluations.”

The statement from Wesleyan continued, “We grieve with the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Alderson Broaddus University and are committed to providing emotional and spiritual care during this challenging time.”

Earlier, the Higher Education Policy Commission twice delayed and then granted provisional authorization for Alderson Broaddus to commence the coming academic year. The provisions included regular financial reports and specific plans to allow students to transfer and for academic records to be protected in case of financial failure.

But as the start of school has approached and more fiscal strain has come into focus, the authorization came back into question.

Jim Justice

“I don’t think anybody wants the school to close. But with all that being said, it may very well be inevitable that that is exactly what happens,” Gov. Jim Justice said earlier today.

Justice asked for a meeting that had been scheduled for this past Friday to be put off. After a weekend of discussion, including a behind-the-scenes size-up earlier today, the HEPC’s focus on Alderson Broaddus’s ability to survive financially returned, culminating in this afternoon’s emergency meeting.

“The one thing I wanted to make sure everyone would do is just double, triple check. If there’s a way, if there’s anything we’ve missed — that was my desire,” Justice said at a midday briefing.

Alderson Broaddus is a private Baptist college that has roots in Phillipi, Barbour County, starting in 1909. Two other Baptist institutions combined in 1932 to form Alderson Broaddus College, and the institution was named a university in 2013.

About 750 students have enrolled there in recent years.

The tension for Alderson Broaddus, its supporters and state officials has been whether the college has the financial footing necessary to ensure stability for students.

Alderson Broaddus has been working to improve its financial situation. A two-pronged strategy includes encouraging more enrollment and drumming up donations from loyal supporters.

The university’s financial issues are longstanding and deep.

Tax filings from 2020 showed Alderson Broaddus with more than $37 million in liabilities and -$904,424 in net income. Consolidated financial statements from 2020 and 2021 showed the college’s greatest debt is a $27 million community facilities loan with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has been a lifeline for struggling rural colleges.

Alderson Broaddus was hit last week with a termination notice over $776,598.70 in unpaid water, sewer and electric bills.

According to a filing with the state Public Service Commission, the last time Alderson Broaddus was current on its accounts with the city was August 2021. Since then, 23 months have been billed and Alderson Broaddus has made 12 months of payments, according to the filing with the PSC.

Philippi’s city council discussed the utility payment problem at a July 18 meeting and authorized termination.

The city and the college already had a payment plan, but city officials presented a new one that started with $66,953 due by 10 a.m. today. Officials said that payment was made.

Rollan Roberts

Senator Rollan Roberts, who serves on the Senate Education Committee, said today that Alderson Broaddus has challenges that seem insurmountable.

“Philippi is going to be facing some challenges,” Roberts, R-Raleigh, said on “Radio Roundtable” on WJLS AM. “It’s going to be a difficult road ahead.”

Roberts reflected on the painful closure of Mountain State University in Beckley a decade ago. He suggested contractions in higher education could affect even more West Virginia colleges in the future.

“I think we’re going to hear some more of these things in the next few years,” Roberts said, “because the landscape has changed with higher ed and the numbers are going to go down, so can we sustain the same amount of universities in West Virginia? Well, it’s a market based statistic, and the answer is probably some are going to fare better than others.

“And so I’m concerned that all of these schools be focused on their financial stability.”





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