BRISTOL, Va. - Students say there are heavy hearts on the Bristol, Virginia campus of Virginia Intermont College after a meeting outlined a failed merger with Webber University in Florida.
"It was really heartbreaking, everybody was really upset. Everybody was crying," describes freshman Mikayla Habiniak.
School president Clorisa Phillips tells us she worked until the final minutes trying to make a merger work, but says it wasn't viable. The school is now set to lose accreditation July 1, 2014. "What that means is that after July 1 we don't have an accredited degree, but that dos not mean the operating entity closes. That doesn't mean that for any school, so each school makes its independent judgment about what they want to do. We have not made any kind of decision," says Phillips.
So, what's next for students? "That's the number one question [we get]. 'Are you transferring? Are you doing the teach out program?'" adds sophomore Emma Baltuskonis.
The students we talked to are making plans to either transfer or take part in a teach-out program, where they can finish their courses and still get a degree. "It's a very sad thing, but VI has announced there will be options. It seems as though they have in the past, they will take care of the students in one way or another. Everyone will be taken care of," says senior Athena Demas.
While the reality for many is that changes are coming, some are still hopeful there could be good news ahead. "I have a feeling that there's going to be a miracle or something. I think there are just too many people who care about this school to just let it go after all its history," adds Baltuskonis.
It may be some time until the students and staff members at VI know what the future holds. For now we're told the efforts are geared toward graduation. "We have financial struggles, so we're also very focused on those issues, but we'll be having graduation. We're focused on those things, but in the course of that the board and I will be evaluating options but I have no idea when we're going to decide," adds Phillips.
We're told Virginia Intermont still plans on having an eight-week summer session that starts the day after graduation and ends just a few days before the July 1 accreditation deadline.