Spokeswoman: Planned foster student college campus abandoned

March 1, 2019

MONTGOMERY, W.Va. (AP) — A plan to create a college campus in a West Virginia city specifically for students aging out of foster care has been abandoned.

Jenny Kutz with Kansas-based KVC Health Systems said sufficient financial support wasn’t available and that there were unanticipated property-related costs, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported .

KVC, a Kansas-based nonprofit that serves families and children in several states, chose to rent and purchase most of a Montgomery college campus after West Virginia University Tech moved from there to Beckley in 2017. The planned rental-purchase was to be spread over 25 years. KVC planned to give children coming out of the foster care system a chance to earn two-year degrees at no cost to them. KVC had said it had planned to open the school in July 2018.

“The more we learned about what was needed on the property, it just exacerbated the financial needs,” Kutz said. “So, unfortunately, we’ll have to discontinue at that particular location.”

Rob Alsop, West Virginia University’s vice president for strategic initiatives, said the buildings that KVC was to use will now revert to WVU’s responsibility. He said the university is still talking with KVC about when that transition will occur.

In 2017, Gov. Jim Justice touted KVC’s proposal at his first State of the State Address. “They’re going to bring a college, basically for foster kids, to Montgomery,” Justice said. “A place that really needs us, needs our jobs, needs hope.”

The newspaper reported that child advocates have said a college specifically for young people transitioning out of foster care conflicts with research that says those in foster care would likely be better off staying in their communities, or getting the help needed to go to an existing two- to four-year college.

Kutz said Thursday there was good “verbal support,” but public and private financial support didn’t become available. Although she didn’t provide figures, Kutz said the need for facilities improvements and repairs to start the initiative were more extensive than expected.

KVC said in a statement that it “remains deeply committed to the concept of a specialized college campus with wraparound supports and is exploring other ways to bring the vision to life.”

Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram said he hadn’t heard about the canceled plans when contacted by the Gazette-Mail.

“That would have been a wonderful program for the youth of not just West Virginia but this country and it’s a sad announcement,” Ingram said. “It’s a sad day for the kids that could’ve benefited from that. I was very excited to see it come here, was excited to even know there was going to be such a program.”