West Virginia regulators allow financially struggling Alderson Broaddus University to keep operating — for now

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West Virginia regulators are allowing the troubled Alderson Broaddus University to continue operating — but only provisionally — and they’re demanding that it keep the state apprised monthly of its financial health. 

The state’s Higher Education Policy Commission on Wednesday voted to reauthorize Alderson Broaddus, a private, Baptist-affiliated institution, through the end of June 2024. But the commission warned it could revoke its endorsement at any time should the university not meet West Virginia’s benchmarks for financially solvent colleges. 

The policy commission made clear it remains concerned about Alderson Broaddus’ financial viability. And it’s making demands of the college — like telling it to secure student transcripts and financial aid records through a third party — seemingly as a precaution in case it goes under.

Without state approval, the institution’s survival would be in serious jeopardy. Higher education experts say it is highly susceptible to closure.

These are gloomy prospects for Alderson Broaddus, which has already confronted years of financial and leadership troubles, like in 2015 when it defaulted on bond repayments totaling more than $36 million, a rare occurrence among nonprofit colleges. 

More recently, its governing board chair resigned at the end of June after posting a lengthy letter in May to the university’s website detailing the college’s financial woes and enrollment declines. The letter has since been removed from the university’s website, but exists in Internet archives.

The tumult also reflects the trials of many small colleges, which must compete for shrinking shares of traditional students in many regions of the U.S. The financial pressures are especially acute for religious institutions like Alderson Broaddus, in part because students have sought cheaper options amid economic turbulence.

What’s going on with Alderson Broaddus?

The most recently available federal data says that in fall 2021, Alderson Broaddus enrolled more than 800 students. Local press reports, however, suggest that number is lower today, at around 670 students. 

West Virginia’s higher ed policy commission, concerned about the enrollment dip and the university’s finances, in June delayed a planned vote on whether to give it operating approval. At the time, state officials said they would need a detailed picture of the university’s financial condition.

The institution’s most recently available tax forms show for the fiscal year ending in June 2021, it had about a $522,000 deficit, smaller than the roughly $904,000 shortfall from the year prior.

University officials did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

When the state commission gave a provisional green light to the university this month to keep operating, it said it “would like to give the new leadership team time to possibly turn the ship around.”

The university is being run by an interim president, Andrea Bucklew. She was Alderson Broaddus’ provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and stepped in about two months ago for James Barry, who said he was retiring. Barry had been president since December 2015.

Despite allowing the university to continue operating, the commission set an Oct. 1 deadline for it to develop plans that would help currently enrolled students transfer to another college, called teach-outs. Teach-outs are common in postsecondary education, but institutions often formulate them when they’re closing, or are on the precipice of doing so.

The university must also report its financial performance to the state monthly, “including actual monies received and actual funds raised through fundraising efforts,” the commission said.


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