PARKERSBURG - State officials want more students at West Virginia community and technical colleges to receive degrees.
West Virginia first lady Joanne Tomblin made several stops in the area Monday promoting a statewide initiative encouraging state community and technical colleges to retain more students.
Tomblin toured West Virginia University at Parkersburg's Jackson County Center Monday morning and then spoke to the Parkersburg Rotary Club at the Blennerhassett Hotel.
Tomblin, who also is president of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, said while the state has seen a steady increase in the number of students enrolled in West Virginia's 10 community and technical colleges, the number of students who actually achieve a certification or degree remains relatively low. Nationally the country is rapidly falling behind other nations in the number of degrees issued, she said.
"We have a lot of work to do, and West Virginia needs to be part of that effort," she said?
Monday's visit marked the last in a series of community and technical college tours where the institutions were being asked to sign both a national and state pledge to increase the number of degrees issued. Tomblin said each community college is being asked to develop a comprehensive plan for retaining students and encouraging them to achieve certifications or degrees.
Photo by Michael Erb
West Virginia first lady Joanne Tomblin speaks Monday to the Parkersburg Rotary Club about the importance of community and technical colleges.
For West Virginia University at Parkersburg, the largest community college in the state and one of the largest higher education institutions in West Virginia, the pledge translates to about 16,000 new degrees issued by 2015.
Tomblin and Council for Community and Technical College Education Chancellor Jim Skidmore met with West Virginia University at Parkersburg President Marie Foster Gnage Monday afternoon, with Gnage formally signing the retention pledge. Several officials from WVU-P presented information on different programs already being initiated on campus to help with the process, including better student outreach and guidance.
"We want to try new things, but at the same time we are mindful that these new things need to be successful," said Rhonda Richards, senior vice president for academic affairs at WVU-P.
Tomblin said increased vocational offerings and online courses both will be vital to helping more students achieve a degree. But Tomblin added those were only parts of the overall picture.
Flexibility, she said, is one of the community college system's greatest assets when developing programs and helping students to achieve academic goals.