“The accreditation is a third-party stamp of approval that ensures universities or programs are meeting a minimum set of national standards. If a university loses its primary accreditation, any subsequent degrees conferred by the university are effectively worthless,” the Mountain State University class action lawsuit states.
Losing accreditation “is a very rare circumstance,” according to an HLC spokesman, and MSU is the first higher education institution in West Virginia history to have its school-wide accreditation revokes, the class action lawsuit says.
In 2010, MSU’s nursing school accreditation was revoked for various reasons, which the HLC took note of, saying the problems at the MSU nursing problem “were emblematic of larger breakdowns at the school,” the class action lawsuit says. The HLC then placed MSU on “show cause” status in June 2011, citing the school for its top-down leadership, lack of long-term planning, failure to collaborate with faculty, failure to give information to students, and the loss of specialized accreditation for the nursing program.
The HLC gave MSU one year to make big fixes at the school or risk losing its accreditation altogether, but “after a long, drawn out process of embarrassing events featuring [former MSU president] Charles Polk,” which included the revelation that Polk had a salary of more than $1.84 million in 2009 – higher than his counterparts at Harvard and Yale – and had used the school’s two private planes on an “excessively high number of occasions,” the HLC came to the conclusion on June 28, 2012 to withdraw MSU’s accreditation, effective on August 27, 2012.
As a result, any classes or degrees from MSU will not be recognized as legitimate, even though students paid for the classes in good faith, believing they would receive an accredited degree.
The MSU class action lawsuit is seeking damages for a proposed class of all West Virginia residents who were enrolled as students of Mountain State University at any time since July 10, 2008 who have not yet received a degree by July 11, 2012 – the date the class action lawsuit was filed.
A copy of the Mountain State University Accreditation Class Action Lawsuit can be read here.
The case is Dale Burger, et al. v. Mountain State University, Inc., Charles H. Polk and The Mountain State University Board of Trustees, Case No. 12-cv-1293, Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia.