Mountain State University

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Mountain State University
Type Private University
President Dr. Richard E. Sours
Students 8,200
Location Beckley, West Virginia, United States
Athletics Cougars
Colors Blue and Silver          

Mountain State University (MSU) was a private nonsectarian not-for-profit university based in Beckley, West Virginia, United States. The university ceased to operate effective January 1, 2013. All degrees conferred on or before December 31, 2012 are valid and were received from an accredited institution.[1] MSU was previously listed as one of the best universities in the Southeast by The Princeton Review.[2] The school had also been named a Military Friendly school by G.I. Jobs.[3]

The University of Charleston established campuses on MSU's former Beckley and Martinsburg, West Virginia locations on January 1, 2013. UC later vacated the former Martinsburg campus (the property was sold to a third-party buyer), and established a new location in Martinsburg.[4] UC vacated the former Beckley campus after the 2014-15 academic year and established a new campus in Beckley.[5] UC is the permanent holder of MSU's student records.[6]

On December 31, 2014, West Virginia University announced that it would purchase MSU’s former Beckley campus for $8 million.[7] On September 1, 2015, the WVU Board of Governors approved a plan to move the West Virginia University Institute of Technology from its current campus in Montgomery to the former MSU campus in Beckley. It is expected that freshman classes will be offered at the Beckley campus in 2016. The move will be completed by the fall 2017 semester.[8]


The university was founded in 1933 as Beckley College, a junior college, and continued as such until 1991, when it achieved four-year status and was renamed The College of West Virginia. In 2001, the school was renamed Mountain State University.[9]


The university offered more than 60 undergraduate, master's, and certificate programs, as well as a doctoral degree program. Most of the university's programs focused on the professions in business, technology, and health and human services. Many of MSU's degree programs were available online.

College Preparatory School[edit]

From 2002 to 2010, Mountain State University operated a private nonsectarian college preparatory school from grades K-12 known as The Academy at Mountain State University, or Mountain State Academy (MSA), in Beckley, West Virginia. The school was also occasionally referred to as MSU Academy.

Although founded in 2002, MSA classes first began during the 2003-2004 academic year with grades 8-10. During the 2004-2005 academic year, the Academy eliminated its eighth grade class, but added an eleventh grade class to accommodate advancing sophomores. During the 2005-2006 academic year, the Academy became a full-fledged high school, adding twelfth grade to accommodate advancing juniors. The Class of 2006 became the Academy’s first graduating class. Members of the Class of 2007 were the first students to attend the Academy for all four of their respective high school years. The school later added grades 6-8, and eventually grades K-6. The Class of 2010 was the Academy’s last graduating class.

MSA students were permitted to take classes at MSU for both Academy and college credit free of charge (less the cost of books). Admission to the Academy was based on a student's scholastic merit; the cost of attending the Academy was based on a student’s household income. All students with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or above were designated as honor graduates. However, students were required to attend the Academy for at least three years in order to be considered for the titles of Valedictorian, Salutatorian, and Honorarian.

The Academy was permanently closed in August 2010.[10] Enrollment stood at approximately 100 students at the school's closing. All high school diplomas awarded from the Academy are valid, and were received from an accredited institution. The Academy's basketball team, which was nicknamed the Falcons, defeated nationally ranked Oak Hill Academy.[11]


Mountain State University competed as a member of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics with men's basketball, women's volleyball, men's and women's soccer teams and cheerleading. Track and cross country were added for the 2008-09 season. Its teams were nicknamed the Cougars.

MSU won the 2004 NAIA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. Mountain State was the National Runner-Up in the 2003 NAIA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. Additionally, the Cougars were the National Runner-Up in the 2008 NAIA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament and in the 2011 NAIA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. MSU advanced to the final four in 2012.

Controversy and closure[edit]

Former president[edit]

Mountain State University's former president, Dr. Charles H. Polk, is widely credited for much of the school's previous success.[12] However, many blamed Polk along with his senior administration and MSU's Board of Trustees when the university began facing issues over its continued accreditation.[13] Polk and MSU's Board of Trustees were named as defendants in over 300 pending lawsuits arising out of the loss of the university's accreditation (a settlement has been reached under which MSU admitted no wrongdoing).[14]

In 2009, Polk received over $1.8 million in compensation. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Polk was the sixth-highest-paid private-college president in the country that year.[15] However, according to Dr. Jerry Ice, then-chairman of the Mountain State University Board of Trustees, Polk’s actual 2009 salary was $450,000, and included a one-time deferred retirement package that the board established in 2004 and was required to pay out in 2009. As a means of recouping the funds for MSU, the board also purchased a $2 million insurance policy on Polk that will be paid back to the institution upon his death.[16]

On January 19, 2012, Dr. Jerry Ice, former Chairman of Mountain State University's Board of Trustees, announced the termination of Polk's employment as president of Mountain State University.[17] Dr. Richard E. Sours was chosen to replace Polk as interim president until the university's closing.[18]

Loss of accreditation and aftermath[edit]

On June 28, 2012, the Higher Learning Commission, the regional accrediting authority for the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, withdrew the accreditation of Mountain State University, effective August 27, 2012.[19] The date was subsequently extended until December 31, 2012 to allow the university to 'teach out' those students close to graduation.

On August 1, 2012, the University of Charleston (UC) announced that they would assist MSU in the 'teach-out' process, and would admit any MSU student in good standing who chose to attend UC. UC also announced that it would establish new four-year campuses on the Beckley and Martinsburg sites, to be known as the University of Charleston-Beckley and University of Charleston-Martinsburg, respectively.

On August 6, 2012, MSU's Board of Trustees formally appealed the withdrawal of MSU's accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission. On December 18, 2012, the Appeals Panel voted to sustain the Commission's action. MSU's regional accreditation terminated on December 31, 2012.[20] All degrees conferred by MSU on or before this date are valid and are fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. MSU closed effective January 1, 2013. The Higher Learning Commission was heavily criticized for its closed door decision-making policies and lack of the availability of official minutes detailing its discussions and actions during this time.[21]

In May 2014, the Mountain State University Board of Trustees filed a lawsuit against the Higher Learning Commission seeking to restore the university's accreditation.[22]

On August 13, 2014, UC announced that a settlement had been reached between itself, MSU, and the plaintiffs in various lawsuits arising out of the loss of MSU's accreditation.[23] MSU's insurance company will pay $8.5 million, and MSU will liquidate all of its remaining assets. The settlement was given preliminary court approval on October 6, 2014.[24] Final court approval was given on March 9, 2015. MSU’s former Beckley campus was sold to West Virginia University.[25] MSU maintains its suit against the Higher Learning Commission, and maintains its $2 million life insurance policy on Dr. Charles Polk.


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