New College proposal sails through

February 7, 2006

Bulletin Staff Writer

With only one naysayer, a proposal to create the New College Institute in Martinsville and Henry County sailed through a House Education Committee on Monday, with a similar version slated to be considered in the Senate today.

House Bill 517 passed with only one "nay" vote, according to Del. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, co-sponsor of the bill.

Only Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, opposed the measure.

"I am pleased that it was reported out" with the 20-to-1 margin, Hurt said.

The bill is scheduled to be considered by the House Appropriations Committee after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, "where funding will be discussed," Hurt said.

Members of the Senate Finance Subcommittee will consider Senate Bill 40, similar to the House version and sponsored by State Sen. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Ridgeway, at 2 p.m. today.

Dr. Barry Dorsey, executive director of the New College Institute planning commission, also was pleased that the measure was approved on Monday with little opposition and remains virtually unscathed from its original form.

"We can certainly live with those minor amendments," Dorsey said.

The most significant amendment made in a House subcommittee last week is the appointment of General Assembly representatives to the New College board, according to Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville, the sponsor of the House bill.

However, that change would not affect the interim board, Dorsey said. It would not take effect until 2012 when a permanent board is appointed.

The amendment was part of a handful of technical changes that were made last week by the House Committee on Education's Higher Education Subcommittee.

The subcommittee eventually approved the bill.

Original versions of proposed legislation specified that the governor would appoint the 12- to 15-member New College board. It would include chief executives of at least three public institutions of higher education, the chief executive officer of at least one private institution of higher education and at least three residents.

Other amendments require institute officials to report to the General Assembly as the plan develops. There also are proposed changes in rate recommendations that involve the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV).

If the measure to create the New College Institute is approved by the General Assembly, it will partner with existing institutions of higher education to offer baccalaureate-level degrees.

The program would be re-evaluated after several years to determine whether it should evolve into a more traditional university, according to the legislation.


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