Original Date: 01/22/2001
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center
The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center is meeting the needs of southwestern Virginia by providing higher level educational opportunities through a partnership with Virginia universities and colleges. The enrollment for courses offered is increasing significantly, attesting to the efficacy of the program.
The concept of the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center was created in 1991 by the Virginia General Assembly to enhance higher education and regional economic development in southwestern Virginia. This region was originally seen as an economically depressed area. The legislature recognized that in order to successfully change the economic status of the region, the educational level of the residents had to be increased (Figure 2-1). The community college system had been providing educational opportunities up to an associate’s degree. However, to continue the educational path to a bachelor’s or master’s degree required people to travel great distances to a major university. Distance became a prohibitive factor for working adults of the area to pursue additional education. In 1992, a $9.9 million capital project was initiated to build the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center.
The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center offers 62 degreed programs from its partner institutions: University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University, Radford University, University of Virginia’s College at Wise, George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Emory and Henry College. The courses are taught by visiting professors from the partner institutions via satellite or Network Virginia, a high-speed video conferencing capability. The course offerings are dictated by performing a needs assessment of the businesses in the area including manufacturing firms, accounting firms, correctional facilities, and medical businesses.
Besides educational courses, the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center also hosts conferences and special events. Since the target population is working adults, most course activities occur during evenings and on weekends. This arrangement leaves the Center available for other activities, such as conferences, during the day on Monday through Friday. In 1999, the Center hosted 601 events in its conference facilities with 48,498 participants. In 2000, the number of events increased to 926 with 65,288 participants.
The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center is fulfilling a need in southwestern Virginia. Enrollment has increased from 1,091 participants in 1999 to 1,586 in 2000. The academic partners also work together on course offerings with reciprocal agreements on the acceptability of courses for degree requirements.
Figure 2-1. Educational Level: Age 25 & Over
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