January 23, 2005
The Harvest Foundation has taken issue with six conclusions reached by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) on a proposed college for Southside.
The foundation made its case in a letter to SCHEV as well as state officials in response to a SCHEV report that suggested a college needed additional study. If some action is take this year, SCHEV said the state should fund a collaborative "2+2 proposal by Longwood University, Old Dominion University and Patrick Henry Community College.
The foundation addressed the report's claims that:
The proposed New College of Virginia (NCV) will have marginal impact on economic development
NCV deviates from tradition
The call for a needs assessment study before going forward with funding a college in Southside
NCV likely will not address the state's forecasted growth in college enrollment
The Harvest Foundation should support education by investing in kindergarten through 12th grade
NCV raises concerns regarding accreditation.
"SCHEV contends that neither the NCV model nor the Longwood proposal would guarantee economic transformation and that the University of Virginia's College at Wise failed to strengthen the economic base of its region," the letter states.
"While SCHEV demands a guarantee of success, we can guarantee that the absence of effort will guarantee failure," the letter responds.
"We were surprised to read of SCHEV's gratuitous characterization of U.Va.-Wise's role in the ongoing recovery efforts in Southwest Virginia. At the Jan. 13 meeting of the Senate Finance subcommittee on education, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine took issue with this section of SCHEV's report, noting ?We are not in search of a panacea or a silver bullet, but it is frivolous to say that education is not part of the solution.'"
The letter points to Harrisonburg to see the economic impact of James Madison University, where Dr. Ronald Carrier, who has designed NCV, once was president.
"The Harvest Foundation views NCV as a much more likely candidate for success as an economic revitalization agent than the Longwood proposal would be. The Longwood proposal would simply extend courses currently offered in Farmville and Norfolk to an already crowded campus at (PHCC). In contrast, NCV is tailoring its academic program to meet both the educational needs of its students and the economic needs of the community. NCV plans to offer majors in professional, technical and scientific sectors considered to be likely prospects for job growth in the region," it adds.
Deviating from tradition
On NCV's accelerated approach to education, using the Internet and means, the letter states, "The SCHEV report is laden with the language of laissez-faire apprehensiveness, such as references to seeking only ?tried and true' answers and the historical notation that the commonwealth has not created a new institution since the creation of Virginia State University (VSU) in 1882.
"That VSU continues in honorable operation today, six score years later, demonstrates the wisdom of bringing new solutions to societal challenges," the letter states. "Just as VSU was created in post-Civil War Virginia to help accord equality of educational opportunity, now it's time to bring new thinking once again -- this time to the challenges of globalization -- to help accord equality of educational opportunity in Southside Virginia to those disadvantaged by economic adversity not of their making," it states.
"The boldness of NCV's thinking should serve as a point in NCV's favor, rather than be pejoratively dismissed without even a modicum of analytical thinking about the issues it raises or the academic approach it advocates," the foundation's letter asserts.
"Ironically, skepticism and reluctance to accept new models of education (also) are part of Virginia's tradition," the letter states, pointing to the establishment of the University of Virginia far from the then-centers of life in the state in Richmond and Williamsburg.
"Similarly, we believe that the NCV model, when it operates as a full-fledged participant in the network of public institutions of higher education, will serve as a model for other disadvantaged areas in the commonwealth and throughout the nation to emulate and adopt," the letter states.
General Assembly's resolution of 2004
"SCHEV calls for delaying implementation of the NCV proposal by not more than an additional year by asking the General Assembly to authorize several initiatives, including a needs assessment," the letter recites from the SCHEV report.
But, the letter asks, "Why is SCHEV waiting until 2005 to perform what the General Assembly instructed it to do in 2004? As SCHEV itself notes at the outset of its report, the General Assembly, via identical resolutions in the two chambers, asked SCHEV to ?consider the establishment of a public four-year degree-granting institution of higher education in South Central Virginia in developing its systemwide needs assessment plan for higher education in the commonwealth.'"
SCHEV growth forecasts
SCHEV's report stated that a new degree-granting institution in Southside would not help meet the projected demand for additional slots at public colleges in coming years.
"Even if SCHEV is correct -- which we doubt -- SCHEV's comment suggests a mindset that it is the obligation of NCV to solve the enrollment crunch Virginia is facing. That crunch will make it even more difficult for residents of Southside who have found it difficult to enter Virginia's colleges and universities to do so because they will confront increased competition for limited placements," the letter states.
"SCHEV contends that NCV would create new demand for public higher education, rather than helping to meet existing projections.
"While NCV may indeed enable some students to attend college who otherwise might not have been able or encouraged to do so, this should be commended rather than criticized. Efforts to date to reach these students have not succeeded, and thus these students have apparently been left out of SCHEV's projections," the letter states.
"Suggesting that NCV poses risk in the form of inducing additional demand for higher education ... embodies a policy choice of malign neglect," it adds.
SCHEV urged The Harvest Foundation to commit about $2.5 million, to be matched by the commonwealth, to fund K-12 support for college readiness. That would be in addition to the $50 million that the foundation has pledged to a Southside college.
"SCHEV fails to recognize that The Harvest Foundation is already offering such support in a K-12 program -- and at a higher level than that envisioned in SCHEV's report," the foundation letter states.
SCHEV raised concerns about when and whether NCV could attain accreditation so that NCV students would qualify for federal financial aid.
"It is generally recognized that full accreditation is not granted until after an initial class of students is graduated," the letter states. However, "provisional candidacy status ... is accorded to a program seeking accreditation once its application for accreditation is accepted for further review. During candidacy status, students are eligible to receive federal financial aid.
"Because candidacy status is not awarded until after classes begin, there will be a brief lag in time in which these initial students will not be eligible to apply for federal financial aid. However, scholarship funds will be available from The Harvest Foundation to offset the temporary lag in qualifying for federal aid."
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