Carrier encouraged by actions

December 15, 2004

Dr. Ronald Carrier, designer of the New College of Virginia, was encouraged Tuesday that Gov. Mark Warner has proposed $1.5 million in his budget for planning the college.

"Sure, we'd like to have the $4.5 million, but the fact that he announced it in Martinsville is encouraging," said Carrier, referring to an additional $3 million that had been sought from the state.

If the governor put money in the budget, Carrier said, "he recognizes the need for higher education in this area. This time last year, we didn't have anything. Now, look at what we've got. We just need for our people to get even more behind it and work hard" to make sure the proposed university is located locally.

In a letter to local legislators and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, Warner said the concept of a Southside university "holds enormous promise."

But he said there are issues that must be resolved, including how to address projected enrollment demand, the role of colleges in stimulating economic development and access to higher education throughout the state. He also said there are questions about how the new university would fit in with existing colleges and universities in the region and whether it should have a new or traditional curriculum.

To address some of those concerns, Carrier said work continues on an agreement with Patrick Henry Community College to govern the transfer of students, and that work is under way to establish "alliance agreements" with other colleges to fill service gaps.

"We are prepared to cooperate and respond to any question and make any necessary adjustments," Carrier said.

Friday, a preliminary report is due from Urban Design, an architectural firm hired to determine if uptown Martinsville has the infrastructure in place to handle 1,000 students, if the buildings can be renovated to accommodate the students and resolve environmental questions, such as the presence of asbestos in older buildings.

Other issues being addressed by the design firm include additional traffic and "a request for recommendations of people who can help us" secure grants from the federal government or private foundations, Carrier said.

The next step in the process will be developing a master plan that will include details associated with the project, such as "majors, courses offered, faculty, laboratories and buildings. Those are the things we'll be doing in the next few months," Carrier said.

In that time, he added, there will be discussions with local businesses, residents and others, as well as public hearings, as details of the master plan are hammered out.

Carrier said he testified during one of the regional meetings on higher education that Warner referred to in his letter and answered submitted questions.

"You have to remember that no new college has been created from scratch since 1908," he said. That alone would generate questions because, he added, "this is a new approach."

The state also has to head off a major problem in the next few years, when the number of enrolled students is expected to swell by about 60,000, Carrier said.

"In my opinion, the state is looking at colleges playing a more active role in economic development," he said.


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