SJR 459

Joint Subcommittee to Study the Need for Increased Higher Education Services in South-Central Virginia

July 7, 1999, Farmville

The organizational meeting of the joint subcommittee was held at Longwood College in Farmville. The quality and integrity of the public and private institutions in the South-Central region of Virginia were recognized and emphasized as being among the finest in the world. The study was not intended to disturb this excellence, but is meant to provide an opportunity for discussion of what can be done to make the region competitive in the next century in terms of employment options and economic enhancement. The study's genesis was noted as being a means to plan for the challenges being faced today and in the future. The identity of the region must be preserved and enhanced, with recognition of its own priorities and programs. An examination of college towns across the Commonwealth demonstrates that these towns draw their identities from the college.

The chairman noted that, although it would be easy to do nothing, a plan must be developed. This study will provide a forum for open, frank discussion of where the region is going and to develop a vision for the future, using and building on the existing institutions, infrastructure, and systems. This study will undertake an examination of other states' programs (e.g., feeder systems and complex state single university systems) Virginia's distance learning programs, and the resources that are necessary for a major university. It was noted that, to meet the needs of today's students and the students of the next century and to avoid stagnation, the region must have its own identity, and, to realize this identity, enhanced higher education opportunities.

Region Defined

The chairman requested the joint subcommittee to develop a definition of South-Central Virginia. The joint subcommittee determined that "South-Central Virginia" means the communities of interest bordered on the south by the state line between North Carolina and the Counties of Patrick, Henry, Pittsylvania, Halifax, and Mecklenburg, proceeding north to include the Counties of Franklin and Campbell and the City of Lynchburg, then proceeding northeast to include the County of Appomattox then turning south again to include the Counties of Prince Edward, Charlotte, and Lunenburg, thus closing the line and subsuming all cities and towns located within these jurisdictions (see map). Map of South-Central Virginia.

Current Resources

Private Colleges
The private colleges in the region include Liberty University, Sweet Briar College, Averett College, Ferrum College, Hampden-Sydney College, Randolph Macon Women's College, St. Paul's College, and Lynchburg College. Collectively, these private institutions serve approximately 15,000 students, provide employment for more than 3,000 people, generate payrolls totalling more than $63 million, and pay more than $13 million in taxes. In Virginia, at least 39,575 alumni of these institutions live and work. The private institutions have active programs for admitting community college students. Additional new students could be accommodated on these campuses by the year 2002 (5,712 on-campus and 2,954 off-campus). These institutions are members of the Council of Independent Colleges of Virginia and are important components of South-Central Virginia's economy and educational system.
Community Colleges
Three community colleges serve the region: Danville Community College, with 6,814 students; Patrick Henry Community College, with 4,605 students; and Southside Virginia Community College, with 5,967 students. The community colleges were described as "democracy's colleges," because of the opportunities provided to Virginia's citizens in their own communities and at a cost that is affordable. The three regional community colleges serve the largest number of African-American students enrolled in higher education outside the historically black institutions. The colleges offer a wide variety of associate degrees, certifications, and apprenticeships as well as providing job training through programs such as Work Keys and curricula specifically tailored to meet employers' needs. The community colleges also participate in dual enrollment with the public school divisions in the region, house several Governor's Schools, and provide engineering and other classes through Old Dominion University's Teletechnet. These schools also have honors programs, distance learning opportunities, and, in the case of Southside Virginia Community College, outreach activities such as summer study at Bath University, England.
Public College
Longwood College is the only four-year public, comprehensive institution serving South-Central Virginia, with a 1998 total on- and off-campus enrollment of 3,444. Ninety-six percent of Longwood's students come from Virginia. The college offers undergraduate degrees in a variety of areas, including liberal arts and sciences, business, education, social work, and speech-language pathology. The college also offers master's degrees in education, environmental studies, sociology, and English. The School of Business and Economics is considered outstanding, particularly in the area of development of small business. Longwood also houses research activities in such diverse subjects as the binding rates of anti-cancer drugs with DNA, evaluation of the criminal justice system, marketing and management strategies of small rural retailers in Southside Virginia, and crystal quality in semiconductors. The college also serves as the cultural hub for much of the area, offering many speakers, performing artists, plays, and concerts. The 1999 U.S. News & World Report listed Longwood among the top 10 regional public schools in the South and as a "Best Value" among all public and private regional universities in the south, the only public regional school in Virginia to earn the "Best Value" rating.
Education Consortium
The South Central Virginia Higher Education Consortium was started in 1986 as a cooperative effort between the Halifax County/South Boston Task Force of the Halifax County Economic Development Commission and Longwood and Averett Colleges and Danville and Southside Virginia Community Colleges. The consortium serves traditional and nontraditional students through inter-institutional programs conducted during the day, evening, and on weekends. The programs are delivered on-site and through distance learning. The consortium's activities include certification programs, diploma programs, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, professional development programs, noncredit programs, and adult literacy programs. The General Assembly provides funding, as does Halifax county, the United Way, and in-kind contributions from the institutions. A report of the consortium's services was received on July 2, 1999, which resulted from a survey of residents and students and organizations and businesses. The joint subcommittee was given a copy of this report for future reference.

Study Schedule

The joint subcommittee concluded its meeting with a discussion of the proposed study schedule and plan which includes, but will not be limited to, continued consultation between the joint subcommittee and the existing higher education institutions, the collection of demographic and student data, the gathering of information and presentations covering other states' programs to increase access and opportunities in higher education, consultation with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and research on the links between economic development and higher education opportunities. The next meeting will be held in early August at Danville Community College.

The Honorable Charles R. Hawkins, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Norma E. Szakal