Va. State makes its case to New College Institute

April 26, 2011

By Karin Kapsidelis
Richmond Times Dispatch

Virginia State University brought Chesterfield County, Fort Lee and local business representatives to campus Monday to make its case that VSU would be a strong partner for New College Institute in Martinsville.

A delegation from NCI also heard from state Deputy Director of Education Laura Fornash, who praised VSU's "embrace of the community" as a model she believes it could replicate to aid southern Virginia.

She said the School of Business' electronic-textbook initiative has become a statewide and national model as a way to save students money and help them stay in school.

Chesterfield County Administrator James J.L. Stegmaier said VSU, which is in Ettrick, is a major anchor for the southern portion of the county.

He said universities play a major role in community building and are able to accomplish goals more readily than governments. With good leadership at a university, he said, "all of sudden things start to happen."

VSU is one of four public universities vying to affiliate with the higher education center, which offers college-completion courses to residents of the Martinsville and Henry County area. The delegation will visit George Mason University this week and tour Virginia Commonwealth University and Radford University next month.

"We have four strong proposals," said NCI Executive Director Barry M. Dorsey. "Each one brings something different to the table."

Old Dominion University has dropped out of consideration, Dorsey said.

The six-member delegation included officials of the Harvest Foundation, which committed $50 million in matching funds to the institute when it was founded five years ago. Most of that commitment remains available as NCI is developed into a branch campus.

A study this past fall concluded NCI should become affiliated with an existing school as a catalyst for economic development for the region, which has high unemployment and no public four-year college.

The boards of NCI and the Harvest Foundation expect to select a school by the end of June. The affiliation, which also would require approval of the General Assembly, is expected to take effect July 1, 2012.

VSU President Keith T. Miller said the affiliation would be a means to build synergy with Southside Virginia.

"The partnership really is not about Virginia State. It's about how we can create an optimal environment in Southside Virginia for higher education and workforce development."


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