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First-year enrollment exceeds expectations
Sunday, July 22, 2007
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
A total of 118 students took courses at the New College Institute (NCI) during its first academic year - more than double the number expected, institute officials said Friday.
Speaking to the institute's board, Associate Director Leanna Blevins recalled that officials had set a goal of attracting 50 students.
"We feel really proud to have exceeded that goal," she said.
"It's amazing," said state Sen. Roscoe Reynolds, D-Ridgeway, a member of the board.
NCI officials previously have said they knew they had educated more than 100 students during the past year. But the 118 total mentioned Friday was the first time an exact count was released.
The board also marked the state-supported institute's one-year anniversary.
Officials have said it normally takes many years to establish an institution of higher education, but with support from the General Assembly, NCI was set up in just several years.
NCI provides local access to courses needed to complete certain academic degree programs offered by colleges and universities across Virginia, to help people who cannot afford to leave the area to obtain degrees.
In providing that access, NCI staff hopes to convince area residents of the need to pursue higher education to obtain jobs. Studies show that about 11 percent of Henry County and Martinsville residents have college degrees.
Although NCI has served more than twice the number of students it expected, "we've got a lot of work to do to change" some area residents' attitudes about college, said board member Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville.
NCI Executive Director Barry Dorsey said in 2012, the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) will review the institute's progress to determine what it will be in the future.
SCHEV could decide the institute needs to continue operating as it is now, or that it should evolve into a branch campus of an existing university or college. Or, the council eventually might allow NCI to evolve into a stand-alone, four-year institution, according to Dorsey.
"We want to be in the best possible position then" to evolve into a stand-alone institution, he said.
Marshall said it would be helpful for NCI to keep statistics on its students, and perhaps track their progress in life.
That might be hard due to privacy laws, Dorsey said.
In another matter Friday, the NCI board heard from students participating in the institute's summer internship program.
That program's goal is to show local college students that job opportunities are available for them in the area, as well as to encourage them to return to Martinsville or Henry and Patrick counties to pursue careers, officials said.
Jason Bliss, a junior at James Madison University and a graduate of Magna Vista High School, said the program also shows companies that there are young people in the area with the talents and skills needed to work for them.
"I'm starting to see a lot of opportunities around here," said Bliss, who is interning with the Southside Business Technology Center.
Erika Howell, a junior at Hope College in Michigan who is interning with the Piedmont Arts Association, said she has learned a lot about area businesses and met many influential people through her internship.
"Even though you grow up here," Howell told the board, "you don't know everything that's going on" at local businesses.
The board postponed action on budget matters and implementing proposed policies for students and faculty due to the lack of a quorum.
Marshall suggested that along with the student and faculty policies, NCI should adopt a dress code.
A dress code would not necessarily mean coats and ties for students, Marshall said. But it would prohibit them from wearing inappropriate clothing or wearing clothing inappropriately, he said.
He cited baggy pants worn around the knees as an example.
"We want to make sure folks who come here look professional, and folks who leave here look professional," Marshall said.
Blevins said she knew of no public institutions of higher learning that have dress codes for students. She said, though, that dressing appropriately was one of the topics NCI staff discussed with student interns.
The board also:
"¢ Welcomed its newest state-appointed member, state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Mount Solon.
He was administered the oath of office by Martinsville Clerk of Circuit Court Ashby Pritchett.
Reynolds recommended that state officials appoint Hanger, Dorsey said.
Hanger is recognized as "an outstanding leader," one "who understands the problems facing rural America, particularly rural Virginia," said Dorsey.
"¢ Learned that next spring, the institute will offer local educators a program enabling them to receive English as a Second Language endorsements.
NCI will offer the program through partnerships with Radford University and the University of Virginia.
Dorsey said the program will help educators learn how to teach English to students who are not United States natives.
The program is needed, he said, due to the "changing composition of the school population. The number of Spanish-speaking students (who are not fluent in English) is increasing rapidly."�
"¢ Learned that the Internal Revenue Service has granted the New College Institute Foundation 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, retroactive to Oct. 20, 2006.
That means people who make donations to the foundation may qualify for tax deductions, Dorsey said.
Tax-exempt status also will make it easier for NCI to receive grants from nonprofit organizations, said foundation President Elizabeth Haskell.
"¢ Heard from Katie Majoris, a fifth-grade teacher at Carlisle School who recently completed an earth science endorsement program through NCI.
Majoris said the program helped her learn about environmental issues, such as protecting wildlife.
"I feel more capable of addressing those issues (in the classroom) because I saw them first-hand," she said.
"¢ Met in closed session to discuss a proposed Continuity of Operations and Emergency Preparedness Plan. No action was taken afterward.