Harvest Initiated College Moves Forward

December 15, 2005


A commission charged with developing a four-year college in the Martinsville area is considering the possibility that the so-called New College instead should be created as a branch campus of one of the state's existing schools.

According to a plan announced yesterday, the New College of Virginia Planning Commission hopes to win General Assembly approval next year to allow colleges throughout Virginia to begin offering classes at New College facilities by 2007.

The New College also would hire its own faculty to teach classes, and, according to the plan, by 2012 it could blossom into a full-fledged four-year school or a branch campus of another college.

In a written statement, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the governor-elect, endorsed the plan.

The possibility that the proposed New College could be a satellite of an existing college is a new wrinkle in the public discussion of the project, which until now has centered on the institution as a free-standing school.

New College spokeswoman Rachel Kaplan said the branch-campus idea "has always been a possibility, but it's something we've become more focused on in the past six months."

The proposal for a four-year college in economically strapped Martinsville or Henry County originated with the Harvest Foundation, a Southside community group that has pledged to give $50 million toward the school if the state agreed to its creation.

Yesterday, the foundation's executive director said the group supports the commission's consideration of creating the New College as a branch campus.

"What we're trying to do is figure out what's best for the community," said Harry Cerino.

"The goal has been to get a free-standing baccalaureate college, but there are great possibilities in becoming a branch campus," echoed Leanna Blevins, vice president of student and community relations for New College.

The commission's announcement that it hopes to have students enrolled in degree-granting programs by 2007 came one day after it disclosed that it has hired the president of an Ohio university as executive director of the New College. Barry M. Dorsey, president of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College, is to assume the director's post next month.

Dorsey previously worked for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for 18 years, and before that was on the faculty and staff of Radford College, now a university.

Cerino said Dorsey ultimately will decide whether to push the state to create the school as a four-year college or as a branch campus.

Contact staff writer Rex Bowman at rbowman@timesdispatch.com or (540) 344-3612.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Select News Year: