Another suit filed over Mountain State accreditation

By Kyla Asbury | Oct 30, 2012

CHARLESTON -- Another lawsuit has been filed against Mountain State University for failing to inform students about problems with the school’s accreditation.

The Mountain State University Board of Trustees and the former university president, Charles Polk, were also named as defendants in the suit.

Mary Whited was a nursing student in the school’s Bachelor’s of Nursing program, according to a complaint filed Sept. 25 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Whited claims the defendants failed to keep her informed regarding the status of the nursing school’s accreditation.

The defendant “intentionally concealed how jeopardized the accreditations were, and, consequently, how jeopardized the BSN program had become,” according to the suit.

Whited claims rather than disclose the issues of accreditations, MSU actively concealed the severity of the problems and continued to advise her and other students in writing and through verbal communications that the program was stable.

In 2008, the NLNAC voted to place nursing program at MSU on warning and scheduled the next evaluation visit for spring 2010, according to the suit, and after the spring 2010 visit by the NLNAC, the commission voted to deny continuing accreditation to the BSN program.

Whited claims the defendants failed to inform her of the accreditation denial and encouraged her to continue paying for and participating in the program.

On Nov. 12, 2010, the West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses voted unanimously to require that MSU’s BSN program cease and desist all admissions to all nursing programs/pathways or any other program representing progression toward a nursing degree for a minimum of 15 months, according to the suit.

Whited claims the defendants were negligent in keeping her and other students informed and breached their contract with her by failing to provide the education opportunity promised.

The defendants were unjustly enriched at Whited’s expense, according to the suit.

Whited is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is being represented by William Druckman, Madonna Estep, John P. Fishwick Jr. and Monica L. Mroz.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carrie Webster.

In July, the Higher Learning Commission said it was withdrawing Mountain State’s accreditation. They listed “systemic breakdowns in leadership, program oversight, integrity issues and failing to provide accreditation information to students” as the reasons for the withdrawal.

On Aug. 1, the University of Charleston announced it is taking over Mountain State University’s campuses in Beckley and Martinsburg.

Fourteen lawsuits were filed in Jefferson Circuit Court on Aug. 6 by students who claim the university engaged in widespread criminal enterprise and racketeering activity.

The university only has a 2.5 percent graduation rate for students seeking bachelor’s degrees, which is the lowest graduation rate of any private school in the Chronicle of High Education’s analysis.

In 2009, Polk’s salary was $1,843,746, which was 3.5 percent of the university’s annual budget and was the highest percentage of a college budget received by any president of a private university that year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 12-C-1935

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