WHEELING, WV – Gov. Jim Justice visited Wheeling University today to publicly offer his support for the continued operation of the university.
“Think about this great, great school and think about all the incredible things that go on in this community,” Gov. Justice said during an address made on campus to administrators, students, staff, and faculty. “We can’t lose an asset like Wheeling University in this community, in this state.
“I know this: this school’s not closing on my watch,” Gov. Justice said.
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WV HEPC), the body that votes whether to reauthorize institutions of higher learning across the state, has been in Wheeling this week, conducting an on-site evaluation of Wheeling University. The commission is scheduled to vote Friday on whether to affirm the university’s annual accreditation, which is what gives them the ability to award degrees and get financial aid from state and federal sources.
“When this came directly to my attention, it came from your congressman [David McKinley],” Gov. Justice said. “He called me and he said, ‘Governor, I don’t know what we can do, but, Governor, we have to do something, because we’re about to lose this school.’
“At the end of the day, something had to be done, and it had to be done right then,” Gov. Justice said. “I’m going to tell you just this; we’ve pushed the right buttons and, without any question whatsoever, we’re not going to close the school. That’s all there is to it.”
Wheeling University – formerly known as Wheeling Jesuit University – expects to have 650 students enrolled this year in their undergraduate, physical therapy, and graduate programs. The University also employs nearly 200 staff and faculty.
Earlier this week, Gov. Justice issued a letter, urging officials with the WV HEPC to do everything in their power to ensure that Wheeling University remains in operation for the sake of its students and the community they serve. The Governor pointed to new university management, as well as millions of dollars in recent investments into the university by the Catholic Diocese of West Virginia and many other entities, as steadying forces that appear to be on track to stabilize the university’s future.
During his address, the Governor also turned his attention to Ohio Valley Medical Center – a Wheeling hospital which employs 1,200 people and announced, last week, plans to close in October.
“The fact that we could have a major hospital closing, a closing that could affect 1,200 jobs, it’s unbelievable the number of jobs,” Gov. Justice said. “We’ve got to, someway, tackle that problem and stop that issue as well.”