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Shepherd College move to outlet center approved

September 28, 2000

Shepherd College move to outlet center approved



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Shepherd College drew a step closer to moving its community and technical college to the empty Blue Ridge Outlet Center Wednesday with approval of its plan by a board that oversees the state's colleges and universities.

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The state Interim Governing Board gave its unanimous consent to the plan, which must gain approval next week from the Higher Education Policy Commission. The commission is responsibile for ensuring the plan is financially sound and fits in with the state's overall higher education program.

A major change in the college's newest proposal is that the move from Shepherdstown will be phased in over five years, instead of three, said Shepherd College President Dave Dunlop.

That change will enable the costs to be spread out over five years, he said.

The lease with the Blue Ridge Outlet Center is not complete, so it was not made public Wednesday. The college will finish negotiations, and when the lease is completed it will go to the interim chancellor of higher education for approval. Dunlop said the college must come up with about $3.1 million in the next five years to make the move. That is in addition to the current $2.9 million annual cost of the community and technical college operations.

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The college has identified several sources for the money: The City of Martinsburg; money from the governor and Legislature; increased fees from an expected 10-15 percent annual increase in students; additional money from new special programs and money from a fund set aside for community colleges in a bill that passed this spring.

"I think the revenues we've come up with will be within about $50,000 of the expenses," Dunlop said.

"I expect a tougher sell next week" before the Policy Commission, he said. "They're going to take a hard look at the money and when you're talking about money, that's where the rubber meets the road."

"That's a big issue next week," said Robert McMillan of Martinsburg, a member of the Interim Governing Board and the Shepherd Board of Advisers. "They will want a complete understanding from Shepherd and for themselves, about the funding."

"It looks like a wonderful thing, if they can afford it," said Bill Wilmoth, vice chairman of the Interim Governing Board. "It is a concern. That's probably the main thing the policy commission will address."

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, had been vocal about the need for the college to go through a thorough process to make sure it had the best location and deal. He said he believes that is the case.

"I've always been supportive of Shepherd and their move," Unger said. "I just felt it was important they follow the process, which I think they did. Now the next step is to find the funding.

"I'm optimistic we will find the resources to make this happen. I'm on the Senate Finance and Education committees and I will do everything I can to find the money," he said.

Unger said money is needed "not only for this move, but to expand educational opportunities throughout the Eastern Panhandle."

The Higher Education Policy Commission will meet Tuesday in Wheeling, W.Va.

The community college, which serves Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, is currently in a basement at the Shepherdstown campus.

The college, which enrolled 1,572 students in 1999, would use 15,000 square feet at the outlet center the first year for classrooms, a computer lab and offices, then expand to 38,000 square feet within three years, The Associated Press reported.

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