New River Community and Technical College is taking part in an innovative public/private partnership to help expand educational opportunities in one of the most rural counties east of the Mississippi.
New River CTC serves nine rural counties in southeastern West Virginia. The challenge of access to higher education is particularly acute in Pocahontas County, where the population of just under 10,000 people is spread out along a corridor extending more than 100 miles along the Virginia border. Much of the county is part of the Monongahela National Forest. The largest employers are the school system and Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort.
The closest higher education institution is New River CTC’s Greenbrier Valley Campus in Lewisburg, located an hour’s drive south of Marlinton, the county seat. It is not an easy drive either, but a sometimes treacherous journey down a twisting two-lane mountain road.
“For some students, it is almost a two-hour drive just to get to our campus,” notes Roger Griffith, Greenbrier Valley Campus Regional Director of Operations.
The Pocahontas County Commission approached the College with a proposal to create a “One Room University” in the vacant second floor of a local bank building. The idea was that New River CTC and other colleges could offer both IVN and traditional classes in the space, and that ultimately students might be able to complete a degree without having to leave the county.
After two years of development, the concept has taken flight through a partnership between the College, the Pocahontas County Commission, and City National Bank of West Virginia.
“Students will have access to more than 120 hours of instruction,” Griffith noted. “We are trying to bring in courses that will be helpful for those seeking employment in the local area. They include accounting, business management, legal assisting, and the full range of general education classes that will build onto any degree.”