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Higher education mall to offer courses from 8 campuses

Aspiring college students in southern West
Virginia will soon have one facility that will allow
them access to courses at eight colleges.

The newly built Public Higher Education Center will open its
doors Aug. 20 in Beckley. Dubbed a
higher education mall, the facility will be the first of its kind in West

By putting satellite offices of various state schools under
one roof, center director Tom Acker says costs and confusion will be minimized.

“If students have to reside at a campus in order to get
courses, it adds another five to six thousand dollars a year to the cost of
college,” Acker said. “By developing this educational mall that will
serve four different counties, students can drive there and get an education
but not have the cost of living on campus.”

Students can enroll in classes from New River Community and Technical
College, Southern West Virginia
Community and Technical College, West Virginia University Institute of
Technology, WVU Extension Service, WVU Tech Community and Technical
College, Bluefield State College, Concord
University and Marshall

The students will align themselves with one campus they
intend to pursue a degree from, but if they take classes from other schools,
they can later apply to have those credits transferred.

James Skidmore, community and technical college education
commissioner for the Higher Education Policy Commission, says the new center’s
southern West Virginia location
is ideal.

“When you look at the college-going rates of that area,
they’re lower than the state as a whole and there’s a tremendous need for
higher education in the Beckley
area, at all levels, community, baccalaureate and graduate,” Skidmore

The school is based on models from other states, and
Skidmore has visited a similar center in Greenville,
S.C. The prototype for the higher education
mall was first developed in Michigan
about 20 years ago.

The school was constructed through a confluence of
influence: The land for the school was donated by Beaver Coal; Sen. Robert C.
Byrd helped to appropriate $10 million for its construction and development;
Rep. Nick Rahall helped to secure $750,000 to help build the access road;
then-House Speaker Bob Kiss helped to secure $2 million in bonds for equipment;
and the Appalachian Regional Commission gave a $500,000 grant for technology

Bluefield State College President Albert Walker says he
thinks the school will appeal to students because of its convenient location
off I-64. Nursing and radiology courses will be offered through Bluefield
State at the PHEC and that’s in
response to demand.

“We’ve been in the Beckley
area for a number of years and know the supply and demand of nurses, so we
definitely need nurses and need people in radiology,” Walker

“We’re trying to meet the needs of the state with

– Associated Press

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