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Better communication will move college plan forward

July 18, 2000

Better communication will move college plan forward



Given the urgent need for trained workers and the availability of a ready-to-go facility, putting a community college in Martinsburg, W.Va., seems like a good idea. But a key state lawmaker isn't on board yet, and before moving forward, local officials need to do all they can to change that.

The community college idea surfaced in early March, when it was reported that the city council had met with Shepherd College officials and agreed to form a partnership to move its Community and Technical College there.

But state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley and Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said that the site choice might be premature, because if a higher education reform bill were passed, Shepherd's newly created board of governors would pick a site. At that point, David Dunlop, Shepherd's president, backed off, saying there had been no final resolution.

In late March, the higher-education bill passed, but without money for a new community college. Officials had to wait to see if the state's budget digest contained the estimated $300,000 needed for start-up. But when the digest was released in June, there was no cash. At the time, Delegate Doyle said he hoped funds could be found elsewhere.

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Not according to state Sen. Oshel Craigo, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Craigo said the state must first write a master plan to implement higher education reform, which will take until January at least. And any funding proposal must come before his panel, Craigo said.

Delegate Doyle says he's confused because on one hand Shepherd has been getting state-level pressure to move more quickly, and now Craigo wants to put on the brakes.

It sounds like it's time for local lawmakers to meet with Craigo and other legislative leaders, and bring along some of the employers who need trained workers. Craigo told The Herald-Mail that he felt the Martinsburg site was chosen to revitalize the city's downtown. That would be a positive side effect, but somehow local officials have to make the point that what this is really about is giving West Virginia workers the skills they need for the jobs of the future.

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