Mar. 26—FAIRMONT — A proposal to re-merge Fairmont State University with Pierpont Community and Technical College has been withdrawn and both schools will remain separate entities.
Fairmont State University President Mirta Martin penned an email to the campus this week, stating Fairmont State has been working with Pierpont Community and Technical College on fully separating the two institutions over the past several years. House Bill 2805 was meant to re-merge the two institutions.
"On Wednesday, March 24, Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community and Technical College concluded negotiations to provide a pathway for both institutions to remain separate and sovereign," said Martin.
She said she was thankful for the efforts made by the Fairmont State University Board of Governors.
"In addition, Speaker Hanshaw, Majority Leader Summers and Delegate Statler as well as Leadership in both the Senate and House, and many state senators and delegates, were instrumental in reaching this conclusion," she said.
She said community and technical college education is a cornerstone of the educational system.
"We are excited to continue to work with Pierpont and their leadership to meet the needs of students and those of our industry partners," said Martin.
Interim President of Pierpont Community and Technical College Anthony Hancock said he was excited about the decision and the negotiations with Fairmont State.
"I think it's in the best interest of both institutions as well as the people we're serving here in North-Central West Virginia," said Hancock.
Hancock said once HB 2805 was introduced he and the Pierpont executive team as well as faculty, students and administration had felt that the school wanted to remain independent for various reasons.
"Through our advocacy at the state capitol we shared our concerns and our dreams and our vision for an independent institution," said Hancock.
He said state legislators were listening to these concerns and got to hear all sides of the argument both from Pierpont and Fairmont State.
"It came to a conclusion where I received a call that they wanted to meet and put us together in a room and have a discussion of what independence looked like for Pierpont," said Hancock.
As the conversation was had, it was decided it was in the best interests for the entities to remain separate. Several senators and the governor's office supported this decision.
Pierpont will be vacating the space at the Locust Avenue campus. There's currently a culinary, vet tech and early childhood studies program located there. Through these negotiations, Hancock said that Pierpont will be off Fairmont State's Campus in July 2022.
Pierpont will keep the Caperton Center and the Braxton Center. At the end of the day, Hancock said this was the desired outcome. He said through the years and with the separation in the past it was convoluted in terms of service and how the two schools operated.
"It clears the space and it clears the air whether they are Pierpont students or Fairmont students," said Hancock.
Hancock said Pierpont can work freely in the public education arena and moving forward will be able to create some new programs.
"As we talk to our business and industry partners in terms of what does a post-pandemic West Virginia look like? Especially in North-Central West Virginia so we're able then to customize the training programs and move forward for a 21st century workforce," said Hancock.
Del. Guy Ward, R-White Hall, said he was happy to see the two schools resolve their issues and come to an agreement to completely separate. Three million dollars will be put in the budget to allow the schools to part ways.
"It's going to be a new beginning for Pierpont and they've got a good person at the helm and I think they've got brighter days ahead. I think Fairmont State has got brighter days ahead I think both institutions will do great," said Ward.
Ward said this separation will allow the schools to concentrate on what they need to do.
"They're both in good hands," said Ward.
Del. Joey Garcia, D-Fairmont, said he was glad that Fairmont State University and Pierpont were able to come to a resolution regarding their pathways forward.
"I am proud of the quality education and workforce training programs these institutions provide for the benefit of our students, businesses, and the overall community of North Central West Virginia, and I will continue to advocate for the resources needed to support their success," he said.
Reach Sarah Marino at 304-367-2549