Allen: Local college offers hope

January 6, 2005

Bulletin Staff Writer

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., not only supports the New College of Virginia, but he supports it in Henry County and Martinsville.

In a phone interview from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Allen said he is gearing up for what he expects to be a busy but promising year. But despite plans for tackling a host of federal and state issues, Allen said he continues to follow the development of the New College of Virginia.

"It looks like the idea is continuing to gain support," he said, adding that "any community that has a college benefits a great deal."

Allen, a former Virginia governor, said he "absolutely" supports the idea for the college proposed for Martinsville and Henry County by Dr. Ronald Carrier.

"It is really a unique approach ... that will provide hope and opportunity."

Commissioned by The Harvest Foundation -- which has put up a $50 million challenge grant for the state to establish a college in Martinsville and Henry County by 2006 -- Carrier has proposed a model that could confer a baccalaureate degree in 28 months. The program would consist of four 10-week quarters with students attending classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The college would feature a curriculum emphasizing applied technical instruction, team-based learning and professional internships.

In August, Allen came to Martinsville to meet with Carrier and his staff for a briefing on the proposal. At that time, Allen said he would work to get federal funding when the plan was "further along."

Gov. Mark Warner has included $1.5 million in funding for the college in his preliminary state budget. And the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) will present its year-long study of establishing a college in Southside to the General Assembly this month.

On Wednesday, Allen said he looks forward to working with 5th District U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Rocky Mount, to seek federal funds for the college.

New College of Virginia is not the only institution of higher learning in Virginia for which Allen will be seeking funds. He also plans to increase federal funding to the nation's historically black colleges. He named the five in Virginia: Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Saint Paul's College, Virginia State University and Virginia Union University.

Black colleges and universities particularly have struggled to keep pace with the cost of upgrading their technology and technology-related curriculums, which has led to a lack of proficiency in that area of their graduating students, he said.

Other goals of Allen and his Republican colleagues include:

Reducing America's dependence on foreign oil.
In December, Allen was named to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. "One of my top priorities for Virginians and all Americans is to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy," he said.

Allen said he and others would work for a comprehensive, long-term national energy plan which would include researching and using alternative energy sources such as hydrogen and electric fuel cells.

Continually rising gas prices restrict economic growth and the creation of jobs, Allen said.

Raising the amount in "death gratuity" paid to survivors of fallen soldiers.
Allen said he has called for Congress to increase the death gratuity from $12,000 to $100,000. "I think a grateful nation ought to do more to help the families of soldiers killed in action," he said.

Implementing medical liability reforms.
The rising cost of liability insurance is driving many doctors away from private practice, said Allen. The consequence is being felt especially in rural America where people have to drive 60 to 80 miles to find medical specialists.

Allen said he is hopeful of passing legislation addressing those goals, especially as the Senate achieved a net gain of four Republicans and saw the defeat of Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, whom Allen called the "chief obstructionist" in the Senate.

After his election to a second term, President George Bush said he has won political capital and he plans to use it. Bush has said he plans to direct much of that capital to revamp Social Security, simplify the federal tax code and stay the course in Iraq.

Allen said he is going to be open-minded to Bush's plans for revamping Social Security and simplifying the tax code, but added he would take a "wait and see" approach before passing judgment. "The devil is in the details," he said.

However, Allen said he fully supports staying the course in Iraq. "I think you are going to see a tremendously positive change in Iraq after the elections," he said.


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