Virginia Intermont College to merge with Florida University
Virginia Intermont College, a financially struggling liberal arts school in Bristol, plans to merge with Webber International University based in Babson Park, Fla.
Virginia Intermont President E. Clorisa Phillips said she and the college’s board of trustees are “thrilled” about the proposed merger.
“Although VI has much to do to shore up its financial position, this opportunity will greatly benefit our students through expanded program offerings and more effective use of resources,” she said in a statement.
Virginia Intermont and Webber have entered a memorandum of understanding, with the intention of merging this July.
The Virginia college has been searching for a merger partner since losing an appeal to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College (SACSCOC) and filing suit against the regional accrediting organization.
SACSCOC had raised concerns about the college’s finances in voting to remove Virginia Intermont from membership in the organization.
The college filed its lawsuit when an appeal of accrediting agency’s decision was denied. Virginia Intermont’s remains accredited by AACS until its lawsuit is settled.
The college has stressed that SACSCOC’s actions are prompted by its finances, not its academics.
St. Paul’s College, a historically black college in Lawrenceville, relinquished its accreditation and closed last June after a merger with a North Carolina university fell through.
The Bristol Herald Courier reported in November that Virginia Intermont expected to merge with another Virginia private college. In an email to alumni and staff, Philips raised the possibility of a merger with a private school in another state.
Webber, founded in 1927, is a nonprofit, independent university accredited by SACSCOC. It gained a campus in Laurinburg, N.C., in 2011 after a merger with St. Andrews University.
Virginia Intermont, founded in 1884, offers a liberal arts education and bachelor’s degrees in a range of academic concentrations including science and mathematics, English, pre-professional studies, teaching and business, among others.
In the 2012-13 academic year, VI served approximately 500 students. WIU’s enrollment, including the Laurinburg campus, is approximately 1,300 students.
Among the entities that need to approve the proposed merger are the SACSCOC, the U.S. Department of Education and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.