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‘Our lives are on hold’: Students struggle to get transcripts from shuttered Christian university

Ohio Valley University
Ohio Valley University, a Christian private school in Vienna, West Virginia, closed in December 2021. |

The trust overseeing the business of a Christian university in West Virginia that closed down last year is facing criticism for failing to process students' transcripts in a timely manner.

Ohio Valley University shut down in December 2021 due to financial issues, with the bankruptcy proceedings related to the closure still ongoing in the courts.

As part of the bankruptcy process, a trust was created that included former OVU President Michael Ross and former OVU Board Chairman Ben Moore to oversee various matters related to the university's closure.

Katharine Davis, an OVU alumnus who graduated in 2018, told The Christian Post about how she struggled to get transcripts from officials.

“Over the course of those years, I attempted to contact OVU over 40 times, paying for 10 transcripts. I only received one after my father physically went to the building,” she said.

Davis said the delays in obtaining her transcripts interfered with her life because she was “repeatedly denied entry into college due to no transcripts” and thwarted her plans to enter the military officer program.

“Our lives are on hold,” continued Davis. “We are losing our jobs, we can’t get better jobs, we can’t complete our schooling, enter the military. We can’t provide for our families and ourselves as we should be able to.”

Davis and other alumni have since come together to protest the failure to process their transcripts, fearing that the “OVU trustees appear to have washed their hands of us.”

She has joined other alumni to form the OVU Advocacy Group, which has a private Facebook page with over 650 members.

‘So frustrating’

Along with Davis, other former OVU students have reached out to CP to describe their negative experiences regarding attempts to get their transcripts from school officials.

Brooklyn Thomas enrolled at OVU in the fall 2016 semester as a transfer student and was able to graduate in December 2018 with a bachelor’s in accounting.

After college, Thomas said she took a break from her career to raise her two sons. Now, she's concerned that not having her transcript will complicate her ability to reenter the workforce.

“I'm devastated that I don't have current employment and that I might be looking for a job in the future without proof of my hard work and education,” Thomas said.

“Being out of the workforce and trying to get back into it is hard enough without having to deal with a lack of a transcript, not to mention employers possibly never having heard of where I went to school because it no longer exists.”

Thomas described the whole situation as being “so frustrating,” but hopes there will be “a solution for the sake of all of Ohio Valley's previous students.”

Kristin Bass was a student at OVU from 2013 to 2018, having never completed her degree due to a host of issues, among them the struggle to pay for classes. 

Bass said not having her transcript is impeding her ability to go back to college, with the whole situation making her feel that “they don’t care about my future or the future of all of the other alumni.”

“I know that it would be a long shot for me to be able to go back again, but the whole transcripts not being accessible right now makes it even harder for me to even consider that as an option, and I feel like giving up completely on that option for in the future,” Bass said.

“I’m at a point I’m my life where going back to school could be very beneficial, but I have so much time and money invested into credits that I would hope to be able to use if I were to come back, but don’t want to have to start over.”

Sydnee Shipley, who graduated in 2019, said she was “one of the lucky ones” who got her transcripts and was able to enroll at another Christian school to complete her master's degree.

However, her husband “finished his last class right before they announced they were shutting down” and has been caught up in the transcript situation. “When we reached and paid OVU for the transcripts, we received nothing back for a few months,” Shipley added.

“Then, one day, a weird non-itemized bill showed up for about $4,500. When we reached out, we never received an answer. We know that there was no money owed to OVU as everything was paid through Sallie Mae or his parents.”

As a result of this situation, Shipley said, “my husband doesn't have proof that he even attended OVU nor that he has his degree,” adding that this “has hindered him from getting a job to the point we had to move in with my in-laws for the past year.”

“There are many more students that have received bills like we did that have come forward,” she added. “The school has admitted that they would just ‘take’ money off students' accounts expecting money to be coming in from donors. When that money did not come in after they closed, they just started sending out these strange bills with no explanation.” 

‘Our students and alumni deserve better’

CP reached out to Wes Crum, former vice president of academic affairs at OVU, for a response to the former students' complaints about not receiving their transcripts.

Crum directed CP to a Facebook page titled “OVU Updates,” which is overseen by officials tied to the former university and seeks to update alumni and former students about many of their concerns, including transcripts.

In July, the page posted an update saying that “power issues on campus have limited our ability to process transcripts,” with many comments complaining about the ongoing delays.

A post on Sept. 2 said, “transcripts can [no] longer be produced because the system is no longer accessible in the same manner as it had been previously,” explaining that an unknown party had “changed the password” to the database.

“Once IT was able to work past this issue and regain access, it was discovered the transcripts had been either deleted or removed,” OVU Updates explained, adding that “the breach was immediately reported to” the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the Higher Learning Commission.

“We are sorry for this news and believe our students and alumni deserve better. We continue to work with WVHEPC on individual issues and will do our best to intervene when and where we can.”

Ben Moore of the OVU Winddown Trust sent an emailed statement to CP on Sept. 21 from the Ohio Valley University Windup Trust regarding the transcript situation.

The statement explained that the Windup Trust was specifically created to handle issues that the OVU bankruptcy “did not adequately address,” such as student records and transcripts.

According to the statement, there are “ongoing negotiations” with an unnamed academic institution to make sure that they will “accept the responsibility for care and safe keeping of such records, and to make official records available upon request.”

"What to a casual observer seems like it should have been a simple transfer of records has actually been more complex," the Windup Trust stated. "To assist with the understanding of why that is so, please understand that part of any such process has required the Windup Trust to honor the rights of representatives of the former university to assets or rights enjoyed by the university. Most significantly, these rights have included the right to withhold formal transcripts from persons who still owe Ohio Valley University monies for any reason."

In response to this statement, Shipley emailed CP a statement from the OVU Advocacy Group, in which the alumni said that while they were “delighted” to have received a reply, they still considered the situation “far from over.”

“We are not an angry group, we simply desire to have transcripts in the hands of the students who earned them,” the alumni group added. “We want all alumni to have what they earned, and will continue striving daily to do what we can to resolve this situation, and work in harmony with all involved until this situation resolves.”

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