Kilgore backs plan for college

December 3, 2004

Friday December 3, 2004
Bulletin Staff Writer

State Attorney General Jerry Kilgore has thrown his political muscle behind the New College of Virginia.

Kilgore came to Martinsville on Thursday, he said, especially to hear plans for the college from Dr. Ronald Carrier, the former James Madison University president who heads up local efforts to develop and launch a state-supported college in Martinsville and Henry County.

Following an hour-long meeting with Carrier and his staff, Kilgore pledged to do everything he could ? including writing to or talking with Gov. Mark Warner ? to ensure that funding for the project is included in the governor's budget to be submitted on Dec. 17.

"I'm very hopeful that the governor will include the necessary funding ... for this new university," he said. "If he does, it will be an easier sell to the General Assembly because anything that gets into the governor's budget is hard to take out."

Kilgore's support for the effort means both of the presumed candidates for governor next year have endorsed the creation of a university in this area. Kilgore is expected to be Republican candidate for governor. His presumed Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, was one of the first officials to support such a university.

Carrier and his staff have submitted a proposed budget to Richmond calling for college funding of $1.5 million over the balance of this fiscal year and $3 million for fiscal year 2005-2006.

Carrier's plan is to begin operating the New College of Virginia (NCV) in 2006.

If funding for the college is not included in the budget, added Kilgore, "I'm sure (officials) from this region will be there trying to make sure that funding is made available. But it will be a tougher row to hoe."

Carrier called Thursday's briefing with Kilgore "great ... he understands higher education and is interested in the non-traditional approach we are taking."

"I'm impressed with the plan in that it will move students through the program in a much shorter time than the traditional four or five years," Kilgore said.

Kilgore, who is a native of Gate City and attained his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia's College at Wise, stopped just short of declaring himself a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor next year.

As for making his candidacy official, Kilgore said, "I took steps forward (Wednesday) when I announced the formation of a campaign team."

Because of his familiarity with this region, Kilgore said he especially is aware of the need to help transform industrial-based communities to knowledge-based communities.

"I will be in Southside and Southwest Virginia often. This is one place ... where I speak the language," he said.

Kilgore said he understands the differing needs in various sections of the state, especially as they are reflected in the 1 percent unemployment rate in Northern Virginia and the double-digit or near double-digit unemployment in Southside and Southwest Virginia.

That is why, said Kilgore, he believes in education and the New College of Virginia. To improve the economies of Southside and Southwest Virginia and encourage businesses to relocate in both, "we have to show that our work force is ready and educated," he said. "And I think this university is going to help us convince other businesses in Virginia to expand and create opportunities and jobs right here."

Kilgore extolled the $50 million challenge grant made by The Harvest Foundation for the state to establish a college in Martinsville and Henry County by 2006. "It is atypical, and it's a great example of public-private partnership," he said.


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