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Bolling pledges support for NCI
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (right) talks with New College Institute Executive Director Barry Dorsey while visiting the institute on Monday. (Bulletin photo by Mickey Powell)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling on Monday pledged his continued support for the New College Institute, as well as support from other state lawmakers.
"There is a lot of support for this program (NCI) in Richmond," Bolling said while visiting the institute. "I assure you that will continue."�
"I'm willing to work with you in any way I can," he told Executive Director Barry Dorsey and other NCI staff. "Just let me know what you need."�
As lieutenant governor, Bolling, a Republican from Mechanicsville, also is president of the Senate.
Accompanied by his wife, Jean Ann, he stopped by NCI on Monday while he was on his way to Radford University.
Bolling toured the institute's classroom building on Courthouse Square in uptown Martinsville. He remarked several times that he was impressed with the building's modern furnishings and electronic equipment, as well as how the building - a former furniture store - was renovated for the school.
"It really does look good," he said. "It has a modern feel to it."�
Established in 2006, the state-supported institute offers local access to courses necessary to complete certain bachelor's and master's degrees conferred by colleges and universities statewide.
Third- and fourth-year courses toward bachelor's degrees are provided at NCI. Students must have taken first- and second-year courses at another school, such as a community college, in order to enroll at the institute.
Right now, NCI is fulfilling "a great niche" in Southside, Bolling said, but there is "a great opportunity to take it to the next level" eventually.
That could include NCI evolving into a stand-alone college or university, or a branch campus of an existing college or university, officials have said.
The institute's main mission is to increase the number of college graduates in Southside. Studies show that only about 11 percent of adults in the Henry County-Martinsville area have college degrees, and that percentage is much lower than elsewhere in the state.
Dorsey told Bolling the institute has been educating many more students than originally anticipated. There were 254 students in the year that ended June 30 and with new degree programs being added, Dorsey expects about 325 students by the spring.
NCI's success so far "has surpassed everyone's expectations," Bolling said.
In 2012, the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia is expected to make a recommendation on NCI's future. It is too soon to tell whether the institute will be able to evolve into a stand-alone institution, Bolling said.
But it is "certainly a possibility," he said. He mentioned that a large influx of students is expected in Virginia's higher education system during the next 10 years and because state colleges and universities already are crowded, the state will need places to educate those students.
NCI currently has a budget of about $2.8 million. Half of that is state funds, which are matched dollar-for-dollar by The Harvest Foundation.
Bolling pointed out that with the foundation's funding, "the state is getting a return of 100 percent" on its investment in NCI.
Dorsey recalled that a 3-percent reduction in state funds imposed on NCI last fall was lower than the 5-percent cut imposed on other state agencies.
Because a loss of state funds results in Harvest reducing its funds to NCI by the same amount, Bolling said "that may be an objective reason" for state officials to try and prevent future cuts to the institute's funding.
He said he fears that further funding cuts to state agencies eventually may occur due to growth in state revenues being less than projected.
Rob Spilman, chairman of NCI's board, said state funding is critical to the institute because students do not pay tuition to attend. Students pay tuition only to the institution conferring their degrees.
Laura Bowles, a member of the New College Foundation's board, told Bolling that NCI is "the one thing with the capability of transforming this community" and its economy.
For that reason, "I think we're (NCI) worth more than it's going to cost to fund us," and she hopes state budgeting is not a hindrance, she said.
Bowles said he realizes NCI is important to the economic development of Henry County and Martinsville.
The New College Foundation has launched a quiet campaign to raise $2.5 million to help NCI and its students, according to Martinsville Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr., who is on the boards of both the institute and the foundation.
Reynolds told Bolling that it seems "a lot of people in this community are willing to be a part of this campaign," perhaps moreso than in other local fund-raising campaigns he has seen.
Bolling said he would encourage lawmakers to make personal contributions to the campaign. He encouraged foundation officials to try and get in touch with lawmakers to solicit contributions.