Possibility of Bluefield State College branch to enter Wheeling area disappoints local university presidents


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One of the colleges in West Virginia currently running, West Virginia Northern Community College

Local college presidents are beginning to feel uneasy about the potential of another college entering the Wheeling area. In early January of 2021, the City of Wheeling, W.Va. entered into a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Bluefield State College “to assess the feasibility of a long-term lease deal on the campus for a new Engineering and Manufacturing Center for educational purposes” as a branch campus. The site is at the former Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, as stated in an article covering the topic published by W.Va.’s MetroNews.

Recently, around mid-March, tensions regarding the topic came to a head at a meeting of the Wheeling City Council, in which leaders of local colleges, namely President Daniel Mosser of West Virginia Northern Community College (WVNCC), President Ginny Favede of Wheeling University, and our own President W. Franklin Evans of West Liberty University, lambasted council members for making such a deal. All the leaders recognized their disappointment in the city, but President Mosser, specifically, launched a direct attack on multiple members of the council personally. Moser cited that it was truly a personal deal, and the city was purposefully not disclosing specific terms of the lease agreement.

Mayor Glenn Elliot of Wheeling told MetroNews that it was simply “an attempt to ‘bully’ the council into making a decision.” Going on to express his distaste regarding the confrontation, “It’s very disappointing to have someone who holds a Ph.D., a highly respected figure in the Wheeling community, come to a city council meeting and make false allegations simply because he does not like something that city council is considering.”

The opposition was made public only recently when a joint statement by the three presidents listed, Mosser, Favede, and Evans, was publicized; reiterating a message sent to Mayor Elliott in February of this year stating that their respective institutions were able to provide the educational needs of our region here in the Northern Panhandle, “a region that Bluefield State College’s main campus in Mercer County sits nearly 300 miles from.”

Personally, I find that my disappointment in the situation lies within our local, respected, and highly influential leaders of education; though I understand some foundations of their argument and upset that such a venture could take students away from their respective institutions, I can’t help but find it rather selfish of them. Within the greater community and population of the Northern Panhandle of W.Va., and especially within the whole of our state, I think everyone can agree that we should take every possible opportunity to get ahead that we can. We have countless things against us here in our state. The Opioid epidemic, the push and shove of green energy alternatives as we transition away from a culture of coal mining, a struggling economy and an aging population that is constantly dwindling are only to name a few – so why would we ever want to push a chance like this away?

For one, it would be utilizing a now-empty building rather than tearing it down, and it would provide new opportunities for members of all ages within our community; maybe it could even further encourage young residents of our community and state to stay within W.Va., rather than flee upon graduation. Lizzy Griffith, a junior at West Liberty studying public relations and the News and Copy Editor here at The Trumpet, echoed these same sentiments when asked about the current controversy of Bluefield coming to Wheeling. “I think by bringing another college to Wheeling, it’s just another appeal for students and families to stay here and move here. Over the years, Wheeling has declined in several ways, but another college is good for the business factor. It’s also nice to have more public school options in the area,” shared Griffth.

As reported by MetroNews, Mayor Elliott expressed that doing nothing will not be an option, citing fears that the now-empty OVMC property would fall into disrepair and just be a problem that future citizens would be faced to deal with; importantly, no specific action has been taken as of yet. However, the council has stated that it will ultimately be up to the Higher Education Policy Commission in April to determine whether Bluefield State College can come to Wheeling or not.

For now, Mayor Elliott has said that thinking in narrow terms must end if Wheeling is ever to see any true growth saying, “We are entering a new era here where I think we will see a lot of economic growth in the next 10 to 15 years. But it’s only going to happen if we don’t see every new investment, everything from the outside coming in as a threat. We have to think of it as growing the pie for everybody.”

What do you think? Please visit The Trumpet’s website and comment under this article to let us know your thoughts and opinions. For questions relating to the content and opinions within this article, please contact Creed Kidney at [email protected].