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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

West Virginia governor desires to avoid wasting Alderson Broaddus

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With a state board vote to resolve its destiny scheduled for Friday morning, Alderson Broaddus College confronted a possible closure. However on Thursday afternoon, the Baptist college in West Virginia acquired a reprieve when the governor stepped in.

Governor Jim Justice known as on the board—the Larger Schooling Coverage Fee, whose members he appoints—to cancel an emergency assembly to think about a vote to strip the college of its skill to grant levels, which doubtless would have led to closure. Acquiescing to the governor’s request, the HEPC canceled the assembly, leaving the destiny of Alderson Broaddus College unsure because it struggles to pay its payments amid extreme monetary pressures.

Now Justice is promising to work with faculty directors and state lawmakers to maintain the personal college open, at the same time as he acknowledges that closure could also be inevitable.

A Gubernatorial Pardon

The way forward for Alderson Broaddus has been a query mark for months.

In June the HEPC delayed a call to grant reauthorization to the college to function and award levels, citing monetary considerations. In mid-July, the HEPC voted to grant the college provisional authorization to proceed its mission on the situation that it show fiscal stability over the subsequent tutorial yr. However even because the HEPC demanded proof of economic stability, information reviews famous that Alderson Broaddus was unable to pay its utility payments. With $773,000 due, the college confronted the lack of utilities and a looming HEPC vote at an emergency assembly scheduled to find out its destiny.

On the final minute, Justice stepped in.

The governor—elected as a Democrat in 2016 earlier than defecting to the Republican social gathering at a rally with then president Donald Trump in 2017—stated in a assertion Thursday that “nobody desires to see this college shut if there’s a strategy to keep away from it.” Justice acknowledged Alderson Broaddus’s demise “might very effectively be inevitable, however we’re going to strive actually laborious to discover a pathway.”

Justice additionally pledged to satisfy with the fee, college leaders and state lawmakers “to verify we exhaust each single avenue we will earlier than drastic motion is taken.”

An HEPC spokesperson stated by e-mail that the fee is “working with all of the events concerned” and pointed to Justice’s assertion as the most recent data on the state of affairs.

(Alderson Broaddus officers didn’t reply to a request for remark from Inside Larger Ed.)

In the identical week that Justice offered a reprieve for Alderson Broaddus, the college additionally reached a fee plan with the town of Philippi, the place it’s situated, placing an settlement to repay its excellent stability and avoiding having its utilities lower off, in keeping with native information reviews.

With its utility drawback solved and a keep from the governor, Alderson Broaddus all of the sudden has new life. However precisely how the state might step in to assist the college stays unclear. Justice’s press workforce didn’t reply to questions from Inside Larger Ed about how the governor plans to stave off the closure.

Lengthy-Standing Monetary Struggles

The story of how Alderson Broaddus ended up in monetary problem is a well-recognized one in larger schooling, significantly for small, personal establishments exterior of a serious metro space. Like many different universities, Alderson Broaddus has struggled to maintain enrollment of late.

Current enrollment estimates put Alderson Broaddus at round 500 undergraduates and 170 graduate college students. That quantity has been on a gradual decline for years. Alderson Broaddus enrolled 828 whole college students in fall 2021, in keeping with the latest information out there from the Division of Schooling’s Built-in Postsecondary Schooling Knowledge System. However within the fall of 2019, the final semester earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. and led to widespread enrollment declines, Alderson Broaddus enrolled 913 college students, in keeping with IPEDS information.

Going again a decade to fall 2013, the info present that Alderson Broaddus enrolled 1,117 college students.

The college has operated at a deficit for 9 of the final 10 years, in keeping with a assessment of publicly out there monetary paperwork. Throughout that point, Alderson Broaddus defaulted on a $37 million bond in 2015 and was positioned on probation by its accreditor in 2019 because of its monetary instability; that sanction was lifted in 2021. Amid its ongoing struggles, the college secured a much-needed $27.7 million mortgage from the U.S. Division of Agriculture in late 2018.

Along with monetary woes, the college has seen management turmoil in current months. Tim Barry, who had served as president since 2015, retired this summer season. The college appointed Andrea Bucklew as interim president in April; the board then introduced it will substitute her with an interim president centered on fundraising earlier than reversing course and leaving her in place.

On the finish of June, Rebecca A. Hooman, chair of the Alderson Broaddus Board of Trustees and Governors, introduced her resignation. The transfer got here roughly a month after Hooman wrote a letter, printed on the college web site, describing years of economic points at Alderson Broaddus, which she partly blamed on “inadequacy within the enterprise workplace.” The letter was later faraway from the college’s web site however stays accessible on-line through the Web Archive.

An Unclear Path Ahead

When Justice known as on the HEPC to cancel the emergency assembly on Alderson Broaddus’s destiny, he supplied scant particulars on what avenues his workplace, state officers and college leaders plan to discover.

However this isn’t the primary time Justice has stepped in when a school in his state confronted potential closure. In 2019, when Wheeling College was struggling to maintain its doorways open, Justice urged the HEPC to work with college officers to keep away from closure. Like Alderson Broaddus, Wheeling was battling slumping enrollment and monetary points that posed an existential risk.

“I do know this: this college’s not closing on my watch,” Justice stated in August 2019.

Below political strain from the governor, HEPC reauthorized Wheeling that month, although the fee denied that the choice was made because of his attraction. Wheeling made deep programmatic cuts and presently stays operational.

Whereas the governor’s help for Alderson Broaddus is clear, his plan isn’t.

A direct monetary lifeline from the state appears unlikely given the personal standing of Alderson Broaddus and the struggles of the state flagship, West Virginia College, which is enacting deep cuts to trim $75 million from its finances because it prepares for heightened enrollment challenges.

There are methods that states can financially help struggling personal establishments, nevertheless. In June, Alabama lawmakers crafted a mortgage program that will enable struggling personal schools to borrow from the state, relying on whether or not they met sure standards, together with whether or not they’d operated within the state for greater than 50 years, had been liable to closure because of monetary points and had belongings out there to make use of as collateral. The mortgage program in the end spared Birmingham-Southern Faculty from a possible closure, with the laws—written by a BSC graduate—making a fund for the quantity faculty officers stated they wanted to stay open.

Whether or not West Virginia’s Legislature will take up the reason for Alderson Broaddus stays to be seen. Within the meantime the college will look to keep away from the destiny of quite a few others which have shut down this yr, together with Medaille College, Cardinal Stritch College, Presentation Faculty, Holy Names College, Iowa Wesleyan College, Finlandia College, Cabrini College, Alliance College and varied for-profit establishments, with predictions of extra closures forward.

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