New College Bill advances; final vote in House set

February 14, 2006

Richmond (AP) – Virginia's House of Delegates on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would create a new public college in the state's economically troubled Southside.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Henry County, is scheduled for a final House vote today.

The bill would establish the “New College Institute� in Martinsville or Henry County.

Former Gov. Mark R. Warner included $4.5 million for the New College Planning Commission's efforts in his two-year budget plan, and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has said he strongly supports a new school.

The New College proposal originated from The Harvest Foundation, a community group funded by the $200 million sale of a local hospital.  The foundation issued a $50 million matching grant on condition that the state establish a four-year public college in the area, which it thinks will improve the region's quality of life.

The college initially would serve students who have completed a community college associate degree or the first and second years of a baccalaureate degree.

Proponents of the school argue that young people from Southside are forced to head elsewhere for college, and have little incentive to return to an area plagued by unemployment.


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