Keeping NCV on front burner

January 24, 2005

Bulletin Staff Writer

Officials of the proposed New College of Virginia must continue to provide information to state legislators on the college's concept, academic advantages and potential to transform the community.

Dr. Ronald Carrier believes that is what he and others have to do during the current General Assembly session if the college is to win state support, he said last week.

"There is so much going on with other issues" facing legislators, "I think what we have to do is keep giving them information," he said.

The Harvest Foundation hired Carrier to design the college. Now, he is seeking General Assembly support for funding the fast-track baccalaureate-level institution proposed for Martinsville and Henry County.

Gov. Mark Warner has put $1.5 million to establish a college in Southside in his proposed state budget that the General Assembly will vote on.

Carrier said that he has met a number of legislators and he has "not found anyone not concerned about the problems in Southside." For many people, however, this is the first time they have had an opportunity to give "thoughtful reflection" on what can be done to help, he added.

As he did last week during a Senate education subcommittee meeting, Carrier said he expects to make a number of presentations before legislators on why they should support the New College of Virginia.

This week Carrier and his staff will be meeting with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in Atlanta.

SACS accredits institutions of higher education so that courses taught at one school can be transferred to other colleges and universities across the country. Accreditation also enables a school to receive state and federal funds, among other things.

In addition to discussing issues of accreditation, Carrier said NCV officials and SACS also will review the proposed college's overall master plan, mission statement and course content.

Although the startup college could receive preliminary accreditation with the first class, Carrier has said, the lack of immediate accreditation has been cited by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) as one reason why the state should support Longwood University's proposal for a college in the area.

SCHEV has released a report concluding that the state should hold off funding a Southside college until more study is done. However, it advocates supporting the plan put forward by Longwood University if legislators decided to proceed with funding.

Longwood has no presence in the area and university officials have acknowledged its proposal was prompted largely by a $50 million challenge grant issued by The Harvest Foundation for the state to establish an institution of higher learning in Martinsville and Henry County by 2006.

Called the "2+2" program, Longwood calls for a collaboration between Longwood, Patrick Henry Community College and Old Dominion University.

In that plan, students would earn a bachelor's degree by attending their first two years at Patrick Henry Community College and their final two on the PHCC campus enrolled in classroom studies conducted by Longwood or long-distance studies with ODU.

PHCC and ODU offer bachelor's degrees at PHCC under a nearly identical program.

By contrast, the New College Virginia, spearheaded by Carrier, proposes a curriculum combining technology, classroom learning and work internship. Through its accelerated program, students could earn a baccalaureate degree in 28 months.

The New College of Virginia has been designed not only to transform methods of higher education, but also the cultural values, economy and physical appearance of Martinsville-Henry County, Carrier said.

For example, "think of what a community statement it would make by having a college in uptown Martinsville, right in the heart of the area," he said.

A community college can change one student at a time, but the New College of Virginia could change the entire community, said Carrier, former James Madison University president.


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