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Shepherd name change nearly a done deal

March 11, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The idea was described as "up in the air" the day before, but local lawmakers say a proposal that will allow Shepherd College to change its name to Shepherd University is likely to pass in the Legislature.

A House and Senate conference committee on Wednesday agreed to a plan that will allow Shepherd, Concord, Fairmont State and West Virginia State colleges to be renamed as universities.

The conference committee is expected to meet again this week to sign the proposal, said Sen. John Unger, one of 10 Senate members on the committee.

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The proposal would have to go to the full House and Senate for consideration, although lawmakers are expecting both chambers to approve it.

If approved, it would go to Gov. Bob Wise for his signature.

Supporters of the plan were reluctant Wednesday to call it a victory for the effort, but they said they do not anticipate any problems with approval from the Legislature, which ends its session at midnight Saturday.

"Let's put it this way, it's 99 percent there," said Unger, D-Berkeley, who worked on the bill.

"It could blow up, but it probably won't," Shepherd College President David L. Dunlop said Wednesday afternoon.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said he expects the House and Senate to approve the proposal if the conference committee members sign it.

Shepherd officials have been working to change the school's name because they say the trend in higher education is that the schools that refer to themselves as colleges are the ones that offer two year-degrees.

That is a concern to Shepherd officials because they do not want prospective students to bypass Shepherd, thinking it is a two-year school, Dunlop said.

Shepherd College, a four-year school, has increased its number of graduate study programs over the past several years.

The bill also would allow a community college which Shepherd moved to Martinsburg, W.Va., about three years ago to operate more independently.

The Community and Technical College of Shepherd, which is in part of the former Blue Ridge Outlets on Stephen Street, would have its own governing board once it earns accreditation, which is expected in July 2005.

Allowing the community college to become more independent is important because it will allow the school to better focus on programs it needs to develop for the community, such as work force training, Unger said.

Unger said he wants to secure more federal funding for the community college to help it offer those programs.

Unger said "the (educational and economic) possibilities are unlimited" with the bill.

"It's a win, win for the Eastern Panhandle, no doubt about it," Unger said.

"We're confident this plan can move the state forward from a higher education and community college standpoint," Senate Education Chairman Robert Plymale said.

Shepherd's name change probably will be a gradual process, with the school's letterhead and business cards getting changed first, Dunlop said.

Making the name change on things like highway signs and the school catalog will take longer, Dunlop said.

The school probably will have a ceremony celebrating the name change when the fall semester starts this year, Dunlop said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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