Alderson Broaddus Told to Wind Down Operations

The Alderson Broaddus Battlers lost the fight.

The state Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) held an emergency meeting Monday afternoon and voted unanimously to revoke the financially troubled school’s authorization to confer degrees, effective December 31, 2023. (Read more here from Brad McElhinny)

The HEPC then approved a ten-point plan directing the private school in Philippi to “wind down its operations.” It cannot admit any new students or returning current students this fall, except for seniors who are scheduled to graduate at the end of the semester.

The board’s actions follow weeks of growing tension between HEPC and AB over the school’s financial problems. AB continued to express optimism that the school could meet its financial obligations with what it predicted would be increased enrollment this fall.

However, the more HEPC officials learned about the school’s finances, the more skeptical they became about its ability to survive.  Chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker laid out the specifics of the money problems during Monday’s meeting:

A negative cash flow of one-half million dollars; $30 million in long-term debt and another $5 million line of credit debt; $835,000 owed to the City of Philippi; difficulty in meeting payroll. “Alderson Broaddus has been asking for donations from alumni to meet payroll,” said the Chancellor.

Tucker and the Board’s greatest fear was that AB would be forced to close after classes started, leaving students hanging. “A mid-semester closure would be the worst case scenario for these students,” Tucker said. “They would lose any tuition paid to Alderson Broaddus, as well as any financial aid packages, and they would also lose any academic work they embarked on this semester.”

AB Board of Trustees chairman Jim Garvin and University interim president Andrea Bucklew strongly objected to the move. Garvin said the decision felt rushed—he asked for a two-day continuance—so the school could address each of the HEPC’s concerns.

AB interim president Andrea Bucklew also insisted the school has been transparent with HEPC. “We have submitted anything that has been asked of us,” Bucklew said. “We do not agree there is an imminent financial loss.”

The facts suggest otherwise.

HEPC officials were very often frustrated with what they believed was AB’s reluctance to be forthright. Several times HEPC learned developments at AB from the media or on social media, and AB’s communications with faculty, staff and students was limited, to say the least.

It is understandable that Alderson Broaddus officials are loyal to their institution and believe the school can be saved. However, it also appears these same officials are not confronting the cold reality. The school has no money, and the bills continue to pile up.

Chancellor Tucker and the HEPC Board made the right decision. The worsening financial situation at Alderson Broaddus was untenable. The school is foundering, and students were going to be the ones going down with the ship.

But those students can find a safe harbor here. Davis and Elkins College and West Virginia Wesleyan have already committed to taking in AB students, and other colleges and universities will likely step up as well.

That would have been significantly more difficult if Alderson Broaddus had closed mid-semester, and given the school’s critical financial situation, that seemed inevitable.

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