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 Rural Colleges Serve Growing Local Needs 

3/21/2012

On a 'shoestring,' rural colleges serve growing local needs
By Matthew Dembicki

When it comes to stretching funds and leveraging partnerships, rural community colleges such as New River Community and Technical College (NRCTC) in West Virginia offer some of the best examples of maximizing resources to train local residents for available jobs.

In 2010, NRCTC expanded it welding program to meet local demands. Using a $220,000 state grant, it rented and refurbished a building to house the program, hired a full-time instructor and purchased new equipment. When the new facility opened, the welding program served 15 students. Today, 90 people are enrolled.

NRCTC also purchased a 93,000-square-foot facility—which was previously used to manufacture modular homes—using federal Recovery Act funding to house an Advanced Technology Center that trains workers for high-demand, high-paying jobs in utility line service, mining and energy, manufacturing, and transportation and distribution. The college partnered with local companies, which provided much of the equipment and instructors.

“Everything rural community colleges do is done on a shoestring,” said NRCTC President Ted Spring.

But there’s a limit to resourcefulness. NRCTC wants to add an automotive program and expand its nursing program, but developing such programs is expensive, and the state has frozen funding for community colleges over the past three years. In addition, enrollment has increased, further stretching resources. At NRCTC, enrollment of credit students has jumped from 2,000 to 4,500 since 2005.

“We cannot continue to respond to the needs of our area with such limited resources. We need help,” Spring said.

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