Eight more suits filed over Mountain State accreditation

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 5, 2012

CHARLESTON -- Eight more lawsuits have been filed against Mountain State University for failing to inform students about accreditation issues.

Former university president Charles Polk and the Mountain State University Board of Trustees were also named as defendants in the suits.

Ronja Kress, Brenda Jedra, Cynthia M. Clark, Scott Cawthon, Megan Lasala, Victoria Redden, Kristina L. Taylor and Jennifer Starkey were students in MSU’s nursing program, according to eight complaints filed Oct. 2 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants failed to keep them informed regarding the status of the school's nursing program’s accreditation.

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

The students claim rather than disclose the issues of accreditations, MSU actively concealed the severity of the problems and continued to advise them 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 suits, and after the spring 2010 visit by the NLNAC, the commission voted to deny continuing accreditation to the BSN program.

The students claim the defendants failed to inform them of the accreditation denial and encouraged them 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 suits.

The students claim the defendants were negligent in keeping them and other students informed and breached their contract with them by failing to provide the education opportunity promised.

The defendants were unjustly enriched at the plaintiffs' expense, according to the suits.

The eight plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are being represented by William Druckman, Madonna Estep, John P. Fishwick Jr. and Monica L. Mroz.

The cases have been assigned to Circuit Judges Louis H. Bloom, Charles E. King, Tod J. Kaufman, James C. Stucky and 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-1968, 12-C-1969, 12-C-1970, 12-C-1971, 12-C-1972, 12-C-1973, 12-C-1974, 12-C-1975

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