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NCI officials pleased with Bolling support
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
New College Institute (NCI) officials said Tuesday they feel confident about the institute's future following a visit by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling earlier this week.
Bolling stopped by NCI on Monday on his way to Radford University. He said he was impressed with the institute's facilities uptown as well as the number of students it so far has educated. He also told institute officials that he is "willing to work with you in any way I can."�
"I think he was very sincere in his support" for NCI, Executive Director Barry Dorsey said. And "it's always good to have another supporter in Richmond."�
Rob Spilman, chairman of the institute's board, said Bolling's visit "gives me a great sense of optimism that we are being noticed" by state lawmakers for the positive impact NCI is having on the community.
Based on his conversations with Bolling, Dorsey said he learned that NCI has "very strong bipartisan support" among lawmakers, and "I think it's been that way from the beginning," he said.
"I feel very comfortable with him," Dorsey said of the Republican lieutenant governor. He said he also feels that way about Gov. Tim Kaine, "who always has been a strong supporter" of NCI.
Spilman, who is president and chief executive officer of Bassett Furniture Industries, added that Bolling grew up in rural southwestern Virginia and understands the needs of rural areas.
Founded in 2006, the state-funded institute provides local access to third- and fourth-year courses needed to earn bachelor's degrees, plus courses to earn master's degrees, awarded by colleges and universities across Virginia. Bachelor's degree students must have taken first- and second-year courses elsewhere before enrolling in the institute.
NCI was established with a mission of increasing the number of Southside residents with college degrees. Statistics show that roughly 11 percent of Henry County-Martinsville residents have degrees, and that percentage is much lower than in other regions of the state.
The institute had 254 students as of the end of its fiscal year on June 30, and officials have said that is a lot more than they had anticipated. Dorsey has estimated NCI will have at least 325 students this fiscal year with new degree programs being added.
Officials say that NCI eventually may evolve into a stand-alone university or branch campus of an existing university, or it may continue being the unique institution it is now. The State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) is expected to make a recommendation on NCI's future in 2012.
"I think the state is in it for the long haul," Dorsey said. "I don't foresee any worst-case scenario in which NCI is abolished."�
Spilman agreed. He and Dorsey said, however, that it is too soon to tell how the institute may evolve.
The future of NCI could "depend on the economy and politics at the time" that SCHEV makes its recommendation, Dorsey added.