Virginia Intermont College and Webber International cancel merge

Virginia Intermont College and Webber International cancel merger

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After a meeting Tuesday with students and faculty, the 130 year old Virginia Intermont College announced the merger with Webber International University in Florida is off the table.

Financial woes have plagued the college in recent years.

During the past two months students and faculty reached out to us saying their checks from the college started bouncing.

When we went to college administrators for answers they told us everything was okay.

But Tuesday, a much different story in this statement released by V.I.’s President Clorisa Phillips confirming the merger isn’t going through:

“Virginia Intermont College and Webber International University have reached the joint and difficult conclusion that we do not have a viable model for merger in July.”

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the accrediting body for V.I. requires schools to have a teach-out plan in case of closure.

When we asked V.I. administrators a month ago if such a plan existed, would not answer, saying they were confident the merger would go through.

Students told me in the meeting Tuesday Phillips said she started looking at a teach-out plan last week, reaching out to other schools for the possibility of taking on V.I.’s students.

"I really do feel hopeless, and I’m sure others do too, I mean it’s a wonderful school filled with wonderful people, and wonderful faculty, and now where are we all going to go?" freshman V.I. student Mikayla Habiniack said.

She said the news of the merger failing, to her means the end of V.I. is a real possibility.

"Looking around afterwards, everybody was crying, everybody was really upset, it was really heartbreaking."Habiniack said. "I don’t know what I’m supposed to do if its shutting down."

She's not the only one who's now at a loss at what to do.

"I’m pretty upset I mean I’ve been an employee at V.I. for almost nine years and it's a huge part of my life and it’s a huge part of the community," V.I. professor Angie Elkins said.

Elkins said if V.I. closes not only will she lose her job, she may lose money she's already earned.

“My paycheck for the month of March which was dated April 1st  has bounced. So I’m kind of broke at the moment and it’s really hard to deal with when it’s your main source of income," Elkins said.

Habiniak said a change to V.I.’s future may mean a change to her future.

"She said they’re still going to have classes in the summer like planned, but she did not say anything about the fall semester.” Habiniak said. “ It made me feel like I had nowhere else to go, as a photo student I don't know where else is going to have the things that I want to take."

Students I talked with Tuesday said President Phillips told them, that starting tomorrow, there will be meetings between the faculty and students about next steps in transferring their credits for different colleges.

Students told us Phillips did say there are still other options to explore regarding the future of V.I. but would not go into detail about what those options might be.

Virginia Intermont College and Florida-based Webber International University will not go forward with a merger. Virginia Intermont said in a release this morning that “we do not have a viable model for a merger in July.”

VI says it will continue to complete the spring semester and go forward with its graduation schedule. It says it has notified Southern Association of Colleges and Schools about the situation. SACS took away VI’s accreditation last summer, attributing its decision to the college’s financial problems.

VI appealed, lost and filed a court injunction with SACS.

SACS granted VI an injunction, under probation, until July 1 – so now, school officials say they are working to guarantee accredited options beyond that date.

Last month, News Channel 11 talked to some VI students who were concerned about the school's future. Click here to read  that story.

We will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest developments beginning on the news at 5:00 p.m. 

The following is a statement from Virginia Intermont College:

Virginia Intermont College and Webber International University have reached the joint and difficult conclusion that we do not have a viable model for merger in July. This deeply saddens the administration and the Boards of each school, as we have very high regard for one another and we both strongly believe in Webber’s goal of uniting small colleges in order to preserve their identities. Webber President Dr. H. Keith Wade joins me in expressing his personal disappointment and, importantly, in “applauding everyone at Virginia Intermont for keeping their attention precisely and appropriately focused on student success.”

Despite this decision, VI will complete the spring semester, keep scholarship support in place for the semester, and have graduation on schedule. We also expect to offer our 8-week summer session, which concludes on June 27. We have kept the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges informed of our situation, and we are grateful for the Commission consenting to the prior injunction remaining in place until July 1, which will support these accredited activities.

Due to this decision, we are moving with haste to guarantee accredited options beyond July 1 for our students who are not slated for graduation. We will also immediately call faculty and staff in to discuss plans for operating over the coming months. In the coming days we will take care of our students, address the needs of our employees, continue to work on our financial situation, and communicate with our partners and vendors. We ask for the space and time to do this important work. That is especially critical for our students. Therefore no interviews will be granted at this time.

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