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June 2012
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MCU trustees tap new leader, talk financing


Leaders at Mid-Continent University on Saturday appointed a new acting president and continued to discuss the school's struggles to stay open amid problems with multiple submissions of student financial aid documents.

The Mid-Continent Board of Trustees met on campus for a six-hour executive session, during which trustees discussed the school's finances and Dr. Robert "Tom" Walden took over the position of acting president from Dr. Ken Winters. 

Walden, a Paducah resident and graduate of Mississippi State University, previously served as vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent. He began his involvement with the college as an adjunct professor in 1990 and was a member of the Board of Trustees in 2010-2011 and 2012-2013. Winters stepped down from the position due to family health issues, but will continue to assist Walden.

"We at Mid-Continent University are looking forward to better times. The faculty and staff have been heroes during these difficult days. As acting president, I'm looking forward to our graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 10 and the successful completion of this semester," Walden read from a prepared statement after the meeting.

Several years' worth of federal student aid funding totaling more than $9 million remains frozen as the school works to submit the correct paperwork to the Department of Education. Winters said a team from the Department of Education's regional office in Kansas City, Mo., will visit the campus Monday to perform a program review. The team will also be on hand to assist a group of financial aid officers who are working to obtain and organize student records to submit to the department. Department representatives agreed to allow Mid-Continent to present this new, fifth submission using a larger sampling of up to 500 current students.

Winters said that the submission should be ready in about two weeks. Once it reaches the regional office, it will likely take two to three weeks for the Department of Education to provide a response, he added.

The school received a reply in late March from the U.S. Department of Education regarding a fourth round of student financial aid and grant paperwork. The Department of Education requested additional data on the sampling of academic records from about 200 students in order to release funds. The school sent those documents to the regional office on Feb. 24.

In lieu of $150,000 regular monthly installments, Mid-Continent has been operating on a compressed lump sum payment of $1.6 million from the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA), a public corporation and governmental agency, that the school received in March.

Officials say they have every confidence that May graduation will proceed as scheduled, but declined to discuss how much money remains to operate the school.

Last week the school announced a temporary layoff of about 40 employees, primarily in the recruitment department and off-campus satellite campuses. No other employees have been laid off, but it remains a possibility.

"Every dollar counts at this stage, so there may be a point where ... we might look at additional layoffs sometime down the road," Winters said.

The school has also stopped taking new admissions, delayed some courses that won't affect this graduation cycle and has not released the most recent student financial aid due to monetary issues. Winters said he hopes the school can admit new students by this fall. 

Mid-Continent has also begun selling university-owned property and vehicles. Twenty-one cars sold from the school's fleet netted about $50,000, Winters said. The school closed on the sale of acreage across from the main campus on U.S. 45 last week. The college also hopes to close on the sale of 19 acres on Pecan Drive in Paducah, which the school bought for $594,000, in June 2008. 

The board did not disclose whether it acted on any ongoing personnel issues during the meeting. Former president Robert Imhoff and wife Jackie Imhoff, former vice president for adult programs, stepped aside from their positions but have continued to receive salaries from the college. Robert Imhoff, who left officially on Feb. 24, would remain under contract through 2015. Jackie Imhoff's agreement ends in June.

The next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting is May 17. 

Contact Kathleen Fox or Laurel Black, Paducah Sun staff writers, at 270-575-8600, or follow @kathleendfox or @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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