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Senator says college funding effort may be untimely

July 13, 2000

Senator says college funding effort may be untimely



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A leading state lawmaker says he is concerned about the rush to get funding for a community college in Martinsburg, saying other work must be done before a local college could be established.

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Local lawmakers have been trying to find funding to open a community college in Martinsburg, and would like the project to be started by September.

But state Sen. Oshel Craigo said getting funding for the community college now may be "premature."

The idea of a community college in Martinsburg was boosted by a higher education reform bill that was passed in the Legislature earlier this year. But before funding can be earmarked for such a school, a master plan to implement aspects of the higher education reform bill must be crafted first, said Craigo, who is president of the Senate finance committee.

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Completion of the master plan probably will take until January, said Craigo, D-Putnam.

There are other issues to be considered too, Craigo said.

Shepherd College has been interested in setting up a master's degree program, which is expensive, he said.

"All of that has to be dealt with" before any decisions on community college funding can be made, said Craigo.

Any funding for the community college must go before the Senate finance committee for approval, he said.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, who has been trying to get funding for a community college, said the state has been offered a good deal to start the college. The city of Martinsburg has offered to pitch in $90,000 toward the start-up costs, Doyle said.

Local economic development officials have stressed the need for a community college in Berkeley County, and Doyle said Shepherd College has been getting pressure from state officials to set up the college.

Shepherd College is considering moving its Community and Technical College to Martinsburg to offer much-needed job training in the county.

Doyle said he is confused by Craigo's comments because Shepherd initially was criticized for moving too slowly on the project and now it's being criticized for moving too quickly.

"In fact, this has been carefully planned and carefully studied for months," Doyle said.

Craigo said putting a community college in Martinsburg is being viewed as a way to revitalize downtown Martinsburg. But that is "not the issue we need to be talking about," Craigo said.

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