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Displaced Alderson Broaddus students quickly enrolled around the state


Displaced Alderson Broaddus students quickly enrolled around the state

Aug 28, 2023 | 6:00 am ET
By Amelia Ferrell Knisely
Displaced Alderson Broaddus students quickly enrolled around the state
Aerial view of Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, W.Va. in September 2011. (Getty Images)

In time for the fall semester, a number of in-state universities have quickly enrolled students who were supposed to attend Alderson Broaddus University, which is now suddenly facing closure. The private university is facing a mountain of debt. 

The Higher Education Policy Commission also successfully transferred AB’s physician assistants program students who had been struggling to find new programs because the field is highly-competitive with limited space. Two in-state universities received permission to expand their PA program rosters to accommodate the students in need after the HEPC said earlier this month there were students who they were struggling to place elsewhere. 

News of AB’s pending closure comes during a troubled time in West Virginia higher education; multiple universities, including West Virginia University, are grappling with debt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, declining student enrollment and other issues in a state with a shrinking population.

Earlier this month, the HEPC voted unanimously on Aug. 1 to revoke AB’s authorization to confer degrees in West Virginia effective Dec. 31. The HEPC cited a “rapidly deteriorating financial condition” in its decision.  The university, located in Philippi, is millions of dollars in debt.

“Lots of folks worked extra hours and hard to help these students, including in many cases athletes who were able to find positions at other schools. Many AB faculty and staff also remained on campus to help students with transcripts, financial aid questions and support,” said Jessica Tice, spokesperson for the HEPC.

AB leaders told the HEPC that they issued refunds to students who paid the 2023 tuition, she added. 

“Many of our in-state private institutions have offered financial aid packages and scholarships to AB transfer students to help ensure their cost of attendance matched or was similar to that at AB,” Tice said. State and federal financial aid would transfer with the students to institutions they choose, as well.

The HEPC believes that every AB student who wanted to continue in higher education was able to enroll elsewhere. The school had recently enrolled around 750, the majority of whom were students on athletic scholarships.

Only seniors scheduled to graduate in December can return to AB to complete their degrees.

AB leadership did not return an email by time of publishing. 

Following the news that AB would close, multiple in-state universities announced that they’d welcome students in need of new programs. 

“West Virginia Wesleyan, especially, worked diligently from the beginning and they are going to be the repository for paper transcripts and manage the digital transcripts as well,” Tice said. 

Davis and Elkins College requested to be permitted to serve as a teach out receiving institution for AB. The university held a virtual transfer and new student fair for AB students.

Glenville University and WVU accepted AB students, as well.

Universities approved to expand physician assistants’ rosters

University of Charleston and West Liberty University enrolled the cohort of AB’s physician assistants students who needed new programs, according to the HEPC.

“West Virginia will benefit from additional caring and competent health care professionals,” said Sarah G. Brammer, physician assistant program director at WLU.

AB had a respected physician assistant program that drew students to the small, private university. Nationwide, physician assistants are in high demand, in part, because of their versatility amid a shortage of physicians.

HEPC Chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker last month told lawmakers that they were struggling to place the AB physician assistants students in other programs because rosters were already full for the fall. There are more students interested in the programs than spots available at universities across the country, she said.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant approved a temporary increase in class size at West Liberty and the University of Charleston to accommodate the students in need.

“We have quickly organized information sessions, an open house, and private tours to accommodate all AB students looking for a place to continue their education,” said Ella Curry, vice president of communications and marketing at the University of Charleston. “We are dedicated to providing a seamless transition and a supportive environment that nurtures their potential and professional ambition.”

In a press release, West Liberty leaders said the decision followed a comprehensive review of the program’s documentation and adherence to the ARC-PA standards.

“The PA program is authorized to accept all 21 Alderson Broaddus PA students to join the 2024 cohort for 12 months of clinical clerkships reflecting the program’s commitment to providing high-quality education and meeting the evolving needs of students and the medical community.”

The semester at AB was scheduled to start Aug. 21, but the HPEC determined that the university’s financial crisis could result in “serious financial harm to students.” 

The university’s largest outstanding loan was $27 million with the United States Department of Agriculture, which was aimed to help struggling rural universities as previously reported by MetroNews. Additionally, the HEPC said the university owed more than $800,000 in unpaid utility bills to the city of Philippi and more than $2 million to its food supplier, Sodexo. 

Tice said the HEPC wasn’t aware of any investigations into the university’s finances.

According to the university’s website, students had until Aug. 25 to retrieve items left on campus. If not retrieved, the items will be forfeited to become property of AB.

Displaced Alderson Broaddus students quickly enrolled around the state
Alderson Broaddus University website screenshot


As WVU mulls program cuts, more student transfers could be needed 

Some universities across the state are facing financial concerns due, in part, to declining college enrollment, which was trending downward even before the pandemic and inflation.

At WVU, the state’s largest public university, the Board of Governors is considering eliminating 32 academic programs and more than 160 jobs. The university is facing a $45 million shortfall.

Depending on the outcome, some students — particularly freshmen and sophomores with minimal completed course credits — could be forced to change majors or enroll elsewhere to finish their degree because they won’t be eligible for the university’s “teach out” plans. University leaders said that less than 2% of students would be affected by the proposed program cuts, and that they’ll try to help students successfully complete at WVU.

The HEPC has “required guidance about teach-out plans” if a student’s program faces closure, Tice said. The HEPC has overseen the teach-out requirements at AB.

Specific information about WVU’s teach out plans isn’t available yet. The Board of Governors will make its decision on academic program cuts next month.