Higher Education Policy Commission reauthorizes Wheeling University through spring 2020, if school meets conditions and deadlines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission) today reauthorized Wheeling University to confer degrees through May 22, 2020, conditioned upon providing additional information that assures the school will have adequate financial backing, academic support and leadership in place through the academic year.

The vote followed an Aug. 13-14 on-campus evaluation of the university by Commission staff. The Commission twice postponed the annual reauthorization vote after the school declared financial exigency in March, terminated a large number of academic programs and ended its Jesuit affiliation and then placed its president on administrative leave just minutes before the Commission’s Aug. 2 meeting. Commission Chairman Michael J. Farrell said that despite its recent struggles, the institution has a
longstanding reputation and a great deal of support in the community and state.

“There are a lot of folks here who want you to succeed and help you to restructure how things are being done at the university,” Farrell said to the university’s board chair and leaders during the special meeting. “We are concerned with what is happening and how it is affecting your students. We must ask if students at Wheeling University are being treated appropriately and fairly and is the institution sharing with them the information they need about their academic programs.”

Farrell said the Commission’s primary concerns include the institution’s financial stability and teach-out programs for students whose academic programs have been terminated. He also said the Commission will continue to monitor the leadership and governance structure at Wheeling University and offer support where it can.

The Commission is requiring Wheeling University to provide more complete teach-out plans for academic programs that were terminated, as well as a formal exit plan for students if the institution were to close. The university also must provide a full report that illustrates the school’s financial viability for at least five years and it must notify the Commission of any actions or sanctions from its other accrediting and regulatory bodies.

While the Commission has conditionally authorized Wheeling University to confer degrees, the school’s regional accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), is expected to conduct its own review later this year, said Dr. Corley Dennison, the Commission’s vice chancellor for academic affairs. To retain authorization from the state, Wheeling must remain in good standing with the HLC, Dennison said.