The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 23, 2012

A major asset

Curriculum flexibility at community colleges benefits many employers

— When problems arose with the nursing program at Mountain State University, a number of area employers certainly had an anxiety attack.

Many health care providers throughout the region relied heavily on nursing graduates and graduates of other health service programs at MSU to staff their workforces.

While the University of Charleston will be offering many allied health programs when it officially opens its Beckley campus in January, other higher education institutions have also stepped in to fill the void.

On Thursday we learned that New River Community and Technical College has received a $3 million federal grant to expand its nursing and other health care program offerings.

There was quite a bit of angst a few years ago when it was first announced that the community colleges in West Virginia would be moving out on a standalone basis, no longer directly tied to other institutions of higher learning.

But the change was made, and since that time it has been clearly demonstrated that it has been a good thing for both students and employers in the various parts of the state that are served by community colleges.

The flexibility community colleges have to quickly adapt their curriculums and programs to serve the needs of businesses and industries in their respective regions has yielded enormously positive results.

Enrollment at many community colleges, especially at NRCTC, has skyrocketed.

While the rigidity of a typical four-year degree program is still the right path for many, others need an alternative to be taught a skill set that gets them employed in a shorter period of time. The community college environment provides just that.

We’re excited about the on-going expansion of facilities and programs at NRCTC and are thankful for Thursday’s announcement because it helps to shore up a need for our regional hospitals and other sites offering health services.