New college funding may rise

July 7, 2006

U.S. House OKs $250,000 for NCI

By MATTHEW MCCORMICK - Bulletin Staff Writer

The New College Institute might get a $250,000 boost from the federal government next year.

Included in the Science, Justice, State, Commerce Appropriations Bill passed by the House of Representatives last week is a quarter-of-a-million-dollar earmark for NCI that was requested by 5th District U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Rocky Mount, the congressman announced on Thursday.

Goode is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

The Senate, which has yet to consider its version of the Science, Justice, State, Commerce Appropriations Bill, also must sign off on the House's earmark for NCI if it is to receive the federal grant.

If both chambers agree to the $250,000 grant, it would bring the New College's total funding for its first year to $2.75 million, which includes $1.25 million from Virginia's general fund and matching money from The Harvest Foundation.

The General Assembly has approved another $1.25 million for the institute's second year, which also will be at least matched by The Harvest Foundation, officials have said.

New College Executive Director Dr. Barry Dorsey said the federal funds would be used to bolster the institution's educational outreach activities.

Those efforts, he said, will be designed to both increase the area's appreciation of higher education and Southside residents' rate of college attendance.

"NCI has two important functions," said Dorsey. "One is to provide degree programs that help the region. The second is to try to change the educational culture in the region."

Accomplishing that second task in large part will fall to "knowledge managers," people who — once the positions are approved by the NCI board — not only will advise and seek to retain students enrolled in programs offered at the institute but also visit area elementary, middle and high schools.

There, the knowledge managers will spread the word about the admissions process, financial aid applications and classes students should take to prepare themselves for college — knowledge essential to putting higher education on the horizon for all area youth, said Dorsey.

Knowledge managers "will go out and talk to students at a young age — probably as young as the fifth grade — and talk about education and how they should consider college as an option," he said.

"That does not mean every student should go to college," Dorsey added. "But what it does mean is that they should have the option, and they should be able to exercise that option if they choose to do so."

NCI already planned to hire two knowledge managers, and Dorsey said the congressional grant would help support their activities. It possibly could allow the institute to fill a third knowledge manager position, he said.

Dorsey said that would be in keeping with language attached to the House's proposed appropriation that requires NCI to use the federal money "to support economic development and small business development, including necessary renovation and equipment costs."

"I think the tie-in is that NCI has been established, and hopefully its very establishment will be transformative" economically, Dorsey said. "We're already beginning to transform uptown (Martinsville) with the (renovations to) the Shumate-Jessie building. So (the college) does lead to economic development."


Select News Year: