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Colleges compete to pick up Mountain State students

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, 12:18 a.m.

A West Virginia college's downfall could be an enrollment boon to area colleges angling to add students.

Colleges throughout the region that face an ever-shrinking pool of students in the traditional 18-25 age college demographic have held “transfer fairs” for present and prospective Mountain State University students the past three weeks. A July ruling from the Higher Learning Commission, announcing it was revoking Mountain State's accreditation, spurred more than a dozen colleges to action.

Although Mountain State announced it plans to continue operations through the fall semester pending the outcome of its appeal, it is not accepting new students and has offered upperclassmen directions to schools poised to scoop up Mountain State transfer students.

Officials at Geneva College thought its Beaver Falls offerings would be a natural fit for some of the 100 students who enrolled in organizational leadership majors when Mountain State opened a satellite campus last year on the grounds of nearby Beaver County Community College.

“We know that there are adult students who have been enrolled at MSU or who have been planning to enroll, and now they need to change directions,” said Geneva College Provost Dr. Ken Carson. “Geneva has undergraduate and graduate degree programs that are designed for adult students.”

At least 16 colleges in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, including Duquesne, Carlow, Point Park, LaRoche and Robert Morris University, are among those offering transfer information.

Beckley, W.Va.-based Mountain State, which bills itself as a college for adult learners, has about 6,200 students. The school has branch campuses in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

Geneva College hosted two seminars for Mountain State students and will host a third from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn Express in Center. Officials at Robert Morris University in Moon also met with Mountain State students.

“One of the things we're doing is because of the circumstances, we will extend the cap on transfer credits to 90 credits. Normally, we only take up to 69 credits,” said Robert Morris spokesman Jonathan Potts.

“We want to be a resource for these students,” he said, noting that Robert Morris has a rolling admission cycle for transfer students.

Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.Va., recently hosted an information session for Mountain State students.

“We want them to know that we welcome them and will do everything possible to accommodate them,” said Wheeling Jesuit President Richard A. Beyer.

Tony Pals, a spokesman for the National Association for Independent Colleges and Universities, said it is not uncommon for colleges to reach out to potential transfer students when an institution loses accreditation. Nor is it unusual for the school in trouble to invite other colleges to contact its students.

“Institutions in this situation, while appealing, do everything they can to assist students and work with other institutions to facilitate transfers,” Pals said.

He said Mountain State and Saint Pauls College in Lawrenceville, Va., are the only institutions that have lost accreditation this year.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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