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By Kathleen Fox
The Paducah Sun
MAYFIELD - One day after Mid-Continent University announced full layoffs and a closure date at the end of June, students, faculty and staff members worked to salvage what’s left of the more than 60-year-old college.
Acting President Robert “Tom” Walden announced 100 percent staff layoffs following the school’s Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night because the university could not meet the next round of payroll set to begin today. Forty employees had been laid off prior April 15. The terminations affected about 150 employees, he said.
Walden said every class met as scheduled on Wednesday, and the administration and all other buildings were open to students. More than half of the 150 terminated faculty, staff and administrative members were on campus in a volunteer capacity Wednesday.
He said the school will remain operational and classes will continue until June 30 with the help of faculty and staff members who have volunteered their time. Mid-Continent has about 1,900 students. More than 80 percent are Advantage or non-traditional students and the rest are traditional on-campus students.
Mid-Continent University hasn’t received student federal grant or loan money since 2011 due to insufficient and incorrect data, creating a financial shortfall of more than $9 million. The school submitted a fourth round of paperwork to the U.S. Department of Education in late February that was also rejected. Officials had been working to compile a fifth bundle of documents prior to Tuesday’s closure announcement.
Chief of Staff Bill Bartleman said the administration saw that the chance of completing a clean sample was unlikely.
“The past record-keeping was so bad that the likelihood of the school receiving a significant amount is slim,” he said. “There are some things that cannot be fixed.”
Classes for on-campus, traditional students will end in early May prior to graduation. Advantage courses, currently in progress, with an least one student set to graduate in need of three hours, will continue until the end of the term in June. (Mid-Continent operates on shorter cycles rather than a traditional semester system.)
Those students will be able to walk during May 10 commencement. All other Advantage classes, not affecting graduation, were canceled in the last few weeks, according to Bartleman.
He said the university has adequate funds to finance utility costs on campus until the closure date, but the cafeteria will be closed after this week. Local Baptist churches have volunteered to provide food and labor to meet other university needs. The school also began a donation fund for basic expenses. To give, call the school and ask for Jeanette Roberts.
The college has been trying to sell the 19 acres it owns on Pecan Drive in Paducah for several weeks. The school had an interested party who dropped out April 15. Bartleman said if that sale had gone through, the school would have still undergone some layoffs, but many employees would still be on staff.
The school could also sell student loans, paid by the university while the U.S. Department of Education assets have been frozen, which will become property of the school. Mid-Continent officials could also decide to forgive those loans.
Kelli Cates, assistant to the registrar, said students began requesting their transcripts earlier this month following the first round of layoffs. She said the line of students has gotten much longer this week.
“There are a lot of nervous people who need help with their next step,” she said. “Knowing they have a transcript makes them feel safer.”
Students in need of a transcript to transfer to another institution have to fill out a request form and return it to the registrar office in the administration building on campus. Officials can provide an unofficial transcript that will not include grades for ongoing classes and then send the official document after classes end.
If a student needs an official document after the school closes, the Kentucky State Board for Proprietary Education will maintain the records and provide transcripts.
Bartleman said because the college maintained its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation, all completed courses credits will transfer to other institutions. The exception would be some biblical studies classes if the other university doesn’t have a similar program or concentration. All general education classes will be transferable, and some colleges will take other credits within the scope of an elective. He said the school is currently reaching out to regional universities to facilitate student transfers.
Personnel from West Kentucky Community & Technical College will be at the Skilled Craft Training Center in Hickory to provide on-site enrollment assistance for displaced Mid-Continent students.
Murray State University will hold an open house from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, at the West Kentucky Rural Electric community room on Broadway Street in Mayfield for all students, according to Assistant Director of Communications Catherine Sivills. University representatives will be on hand to assist with paperwork, and the application fee will be waived for all attendees, she said.
The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office released a statement that the school’s situation is being monitored by the AG’s office, the Kentucky Council on Post Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education and SACS.
“We are monitoring the situation to ensure that the school meets its obligation to its students and that all records students need or about conduct in the university are preserved,” said Allison Martin, communications director for the attorney general’s office.
The office sent letters to the Mid-Continent administrators as a reminder of their legal obligation to maintain all records during the school’s dissolution and that any destruction of records could lead to criminal charges, she said.
The Consumer Protection Division would look into any complaints filed by students in regard to legal rights, transfer credits and student loans. Students with questions can visit the website at www.ag.ky.gov/mcu, call 502-696-5485 or email email@example.com.
Contact Kathleen Fox a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651, or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.
Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission through the Kentucky Press News Service.