BLUEFIELD, Va. — Bluefield College is benefiting from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, which has approved funding to expand the college’s nursing program.

State Sen. Ben Chafin announced Monday that nearly $1 million is being awarded to community colleges in Southwest Virginia for workforce development financial aid.

“These funds will help offset the cost of credential programs, certifications, and degrees that will help residents gain the necessary skills for their careers,” he said.

Bluefield College is working to respond to workforce needs in the region by expanding its nursing program to a four-year undergraduate degree.

Chafin said the commission awarded grants to Bluefield College to build new labs and purchase equipment necessary for the new nursing program.

“These funds will provide resources to assist with outfitting our skills and simulation labs for the proposed undergraduate nursing program,” said Ruth Blankenship, vice president for finance, administration, and advancement.

She said Bluefield College seeks to address the workforce and healthcare shortage in the area.

“We are so thankful for the continued support of the Tobacco Commission,” she said. “They have been integral in our growth in nursing education.”

The college already offers online bachelor’s and master’s in science degree programs in nursing, but students must already have be a licensed Registered Nurse (RN)

Lindsey Akers, BC’s director of marketing and public relations, said the proposed expansion would help provide the training needed for the path to be licensed as an RN as well.

“It will be a one-stop shop,” she said of the nursing program.

Applications for new higher education programs and degrees were funded through Chafin’s Education Committee.

Chafin, who is chair of the committee, also said a total of $3 million was placed into the new Talent Attraction Program.

“The program is designed to encourage recent graduates to live in the Tobacco Region and work in targeted, hard-to-fill occupations by providing up to $12,000 annually in student loan repayment,” he said.

A similar program to the Talent Attraction is designed to entice medical professionals to move to the Tobacco Region for work through a student loan repayment program.

“It is the goal of the commission to incentivize young people to live and work in Southwest and Southside Virginia and slow the population decline in the regions,” he said.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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