College plans get an A: Warner to add $300,000

December 20, 2005

Martinsville Bulletin Staff Writer

Gov. Mark Warner announced Monday that he will give the New College Institute an additional $300,000 this budget year, bringing total state funds earmarked for the proposed baccalaureate degree-granting, state-supported college to $5.1 million.

The total includes another $300,000 already appropriated this budget year for the institute and $4.5 million that Warner included in the state"s proposed biennium budget presented last week.

Warner announced the new funds when he spoke to local officials and business leaders at the West Piedmont Business Development Center uptown. He also praised last week"s announcement of the proposed two-step framework for the college and the hiring of Dr. Barry M. Dorsey as the New College Planning Commission"s executive director.

"We"ve now got a plan that can be successful," he said, adding that original plans to launch the institute without any "start-up time" and an affiliation with an established school were "too ambitious" and "not realistic."

The General Assembly will deliberate Warner"s budget proposal when it reconvenes in January.

"The battle (to establish the institute) isn"t over. It"s just beginning," Dorsey told the group, adding that the community now must work together to encourage lawmakers not to trim the $4.5 million that Warner proposed.

Dorsey, a former administrator for the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, said he thinks "the likelihood is very good" that lawmakers will leave those funds intact now that SCHEV has endorsed the framework for the institute"s founding.

He said he thinks lawmakers will be persuaded to support the school "when we explain what the New College is all about."

Later, Warner said college supporters should take a bipartisan approach to lobbying the General Assembly to keep the funds in the budget. They also should work with supporters of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston to have regional appeal.

"They"ve got to make the case that it"s not just about Martinsville and Southside. You"ve got to make the case that it"s for the state," Warner said.

Southside Virginia currently lacks a publicly funded, four-year college. The institute would differ from other colleges, however, in that curricula would focus on careers that are predominant in the region, officials have said.

Virginia Tech, through an affiliation with the New College, will help develop the institute"s curricula.

The first stage of the two-step framework calls for the institute to initially teach third- and fourth-year students in classes starting in the fall of 2007, earning degrees via existing schools that become affiliated with the institute. The first round of degrees would be given in either 2008 or 2009, depending on the students" credit hours when they come to the institute, the framework shows.

The second stage of development involves the New College developing into an independent institution or branch campus of another school by 2012. By then, first- and second-year students also could be taught.

The General Assembly and SCHEV would have to approve either set-up.

Warner praised the community for coming together to support establishing the New College. He noted that four years ago when he was running for governor, he often was asked what his legacy would be. He responded that, at the end of four years, young people in Martinsville would not have to move to find a good job.

With the progress on the New College, the community is "on the path to reality," he said.

"While we have much hard work remaining, we have made much progress," said Doug Payne, chairman of The Harvest Foundation Board of Directors. "A lot of hard work ... has culminated in several important milestones in the past week," including Dorsey"s hiring, the framework and the extra $300,000.

Dr. Leanna Blevins, vice president of student and community development for the institute, said that money"s use has not been determined.

The Harvest Foundation has issued a $50 million challenge grant for the state to establish the institute.

"You"ve made a tremendous investment in education and the community," Dorsey told those gathered to hear the governor. "I predict it will bring rich dividends."

Economic developers have said that having a baccalaureate degree-granting school in Henry County or Martinsville should lure new

business and industry to the area because it will improve the quality of the local work force.

"We firmly believe" that will happen, Payne said.


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