Just a little over a year ago, a pall was cast over Beckley when the Higher Learning Commission pulled the accreditation of Mountain State University, leaving hundreds of students, their education and their futures hanging in limbo.
Not long after, the University of Charleston announced its intention to establish a four-year private college center in Beckley in January 2013 — as soon as MSU closed its doors for good.
Now, a year later. UC is extending that commitment, announcing last week that it will begin offering some of its bachelor’s in education degrees at UC-Beckley this fall.
This news came on the heels of an articulation agreement with New River Community and Technical College to provide a 2+2 pathway for students with an associate of applied science degree in paraprofessional education to continue their college career and attain a bachelor’s degree.
The University of Charleston’s commitment to Beckley is important on several levels.
First, it was a lifeline to the students who had, in good faith, enrolled in MSU and expected to receive a degree and their livelihood.
The commitment by UC to step in after the collapse of MSU was also good for the economy of Beckley. Although the campus isn’t bustling quite yet, it has kept some monies coming into the city.
The two announcements tied to teaching careers are especially beneficial because the need for dedicated, effective and motivated educators is high. According to the United States Department of Labor, a significant number of elementary teachers are expected to reach retirement age through 2020, causing the need for elementary education teachers to grow by 17 percent.
In December 2012, the West Virginia Department of Education reported that nearly 11,000 of the state’s 24,000 public school educators are eligible to retire within the next five years.
These actions by the University of Charleston will make it more convenient for many students to stay in southern West Virginia and earn their education here.
To us, it sounds like a pretty good deal for everyone.