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Foundations Join Forces to Boost Education in Rural Virginia

Dec 06 2011

This is an archived article!

This article was published on Dec 06 2011 and was archived on Dec 07 2012. The information below may be outdated or inaccurate.

RICHMOND, Va. -- New River Community College is one of 14 Virginia community colleges that will be part of a new statewide initiative to make rural Virginia more economically competitive by helping more of its people become college graduates. Joining forces to support this initiative are The Patrick County Educational Foundation (PCEF) and the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE), a foundation focused on increasing access to college, especially for first-time students and those from underserved populations.

The PCEF was created in 2001 by former Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles as a ten-year economic development trial to change the culture of Patrick County, elevating the importance of education and making the locality more attractive to employers. The PCEF "Patrick Pilot" aimed to elevate Patrick from being one of Virginia's lowest ranked rural localities to its top five in terms of high school and G.E.D completion; college access and attainment; and workforce training programs. The PCEF successfully reached its decade-long goal in just five years.

This new partnership seeks to leverage the strength of Virginia's growing community colleges to replicate and export the PCEF "Patrick Pilot" to other localities in Virginia's rural horseshoe, an area stretching from the Eastern Shore across Southern Virginia and up alongside the Blue Ridge Mountains, over the next decade.

"While maintaining our identity, brand and mission, we are leveraging our success through this exciting new partnership with the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education," said Baliles. "No two localities along Virginia's rural horseshoe are identical but they share some common challenges such as low college attainment rates, low wages and high unemployment. By working with our community colleges, and their statewide foundation, I am confident that over time we can confront and overcome those issues."

"This affiliation is on-target in our work to realize our foundation's mission of providing access to higher education for all Virginians," said Ron Tillett, chairman of the VFCCE. "The 'Patrick Pilot' is evidence that targeted strategies can help us bring opportunity to every part of Virginia, benefitting all of Virginia."

The new foundation affiliation will focus on rural Virginia localities that are served by 14 of Virginia's 23 community colleges. The localities share an untapped potential that requires a new paradigm of academic, personal and social support in the pursuit of greater educational attainment. Leaders from both foundations will work collaboratively over the next 6 months to establish measurable goals for the affiliation in the pursuit of the following goals:• Increasing the number of people in rural Virginia who graduate from high school or earn a GED; • Successfully convince more of those people to enroll in and graduate from college;• Prepare the workforce in rural Virginia to take advantage of the competitive economic development opportunities of the 21st century; and• Establishing a think tank in Patrick County to identify and articulate the unique challenges rural localities face in increasing educational attainment and crafting solutions to those challenges.

"I see incredible promise in this new partnership, especially when it comes to advancing the goals of our six-year strategic plan, Achieve 2015," said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia's Community Colleges. "Virginia's future depends on our ability to produce more college graduates; especially from first-generation college students. This will help us do that."

The partnership will combine the lessons learned from the Patrick Pilot with new tools from Virginia's Community Colleges, including guaranteed transfer agreements with universities, Middle College initiatives to serve young adults who didn't finish high school and Career Coaches who work in high schools to help students create personal college and career plans.

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Kelly Kaiser


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