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Mountain State president: School still weighing options

By Michelle Horst -- The Journal (Martinsburg, W.Va.)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- There is not a "For Sale" sign up at the Martinsburg Mall - yet.

Mountain State University, which purchased the mall in April 2010 for $11 million, is expecting a low enrollment for the fall semester, and this in turn will cause funding to significantly decrease. With a lack of incoming funds from tuition, the Board of Directors has issued permission for the university to sell assets if necessary.

"We need to be prepared to be able to carry on the core operation, which is the education of students," Dr. Sours, the university's interim president, told The Journal Thursday.

Sours said that there has been a committee appointed to deal with the budget reduction, and the board has granted approval to liquidate assets if necessary these are the only steps that the university has taken as this point.

"We will sell assets to sustain the core mission. The mall, however, is in an unusual situation with the new academic space, and we need to preserve some academic space. Honestly, if the right buyer comes along with the right price, we would be willing to sell and then move the operation to Viking Way," Sours said. He also said conversely, that if someone offered a favorable price to purchase the Viking Way property, the university would consider selling that space and moving the operation to the mall.

As of Thursday no other decisions with the mall space have been made - no appraisals made, no "For Sale" signs hung, and no offers placed to purchase the space.

Part of Mountain State's loan terms with City National Bank is that the university must remain accredited. The accrediting body that revoked university's primary accreditation in June has granted an extension that will allow the accreditation to remain in place until the end of 2012.

Mountain State University plans to appeal the HLC's decision to strip the accreditation. Currently, the official appeal document has not been submitted, but several drafts have been submitted for review. Sours planned to spend Thursday afternoon reviewing the various drafts.

In April 2010, Mountain State purchased the mall for $11 million, and had planned to convert 13,000 square feet into classrooms and administrative space. For now, the mall remains in Mountain State's property.

"We still have summer school going on, and we're still trucking along," Sours said. "As of now, none of the decisions have been made, only that we have permission to sell in the event our cash flow cannot support the core values."

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