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PHCC pulls out of Franklin County site

Thursday, July 31, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Franklin News-Post

Patrick Henry Community College is turning over its services in Franklin County to Virginia Western Community College.

The presidents of both colleges made the announcement Wednesday at The Franklin Center in Rocky Mount.

PHCC President Angeline Godwin said financial issues prompted the change, which will be effective for the 2014-15 school year.

“It was a difficult financial decision,” Godwin said, adding that a combination of fewer students through programs such as the Trade Act and a drop in state funding have been factors in PHCC’s budget woes.

“We were educating large numbers of people in a short period of time,” she said, and that demand for services brought growth.

In June, PHCC cut 22 positions to deal with a $1.8 million budget deficit. The college’s full-time position at The Franklin Center was eliminated before those cuts

Patrick Henry found itself in a position to “right size” by reorganizing, looking at the economics and “serving the people we need to serve,” Godwin said.

While evaluating the college’s presence in Franklin County, Godwin said the first question asked was, “What is in the best interest of the students?”

The conclusion was that they can be served best, she said, by working with Virginia Western (VWCC), taking any “egos off the table” and being objective.

“Franklin County should not be underserved,” she said, and PHCC reached out to VWCC for a mutual agreement that paves the way for VWCC to provide the services and classes PHCC has been offering at The Franklin Center.

“The (community college) system can function as one or as 23 individual institutions,” Godwin said, adding that the collaboration with VWCC keeps students first.

“This agreement captures the essence of that (collaboration),” she said, adding that PHCC gives The Franklin Center $24,000 a year for its services, a fee that has already been paid for the coming school year.

Total cost savings and enrollment figures were not given.

Robert H. Sandel, president of VWCC, said for Franklin County residents, including dual enrollment students at Franklin County High School (FCHS), it will be business as usual going forward.

“We are delighted to pick up Franklin County as a unified body,” he said. “Franklin County will not skip a beat.”

Sandel praised Godwin for her vision and work on dealing with a challenging situation.

“With her new focus (solely in Henry and Patrick counties), only good things will happen,” he said. “We will make this be a positive.”

Both VWCC and PHCC have maintained offices at The Franklin Center since shortly after the facility opened in 2007 as a center for higher education opportunities and workforce training.

During that time, the colleges provided shared services, with VWCC offering night classes at the center, as well as general education and transfer dual enrollment courses at FCHS. Patrick Henry has offered daytime classes at the center, as well as career and technical education dual enrollment courses at FCHS.

Both colleges also have been providing workforce training for businesses and industries in Franklin County.

All of these will continue as usual, Sandel said.

The only exception will be that PHCC will continue its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) courses at the center for the coming school year, Godwin said. The college also will continue to work with current workforce training clients in Franklin County until next year.

Franklin County will be solely part of the VWCC service area effective July 1, 2015.

Sandel said this is a “bittersweet” experience for him, but VWCC is “ready and positioned” to take over the responsibilities.

“We are going to make it happen,” he said, adding that Franklin County students who attend VWCC and those enrolled in the dual enrollment program do very well.

“Franklin County has some of the best high school students coming to Virginia Western,” he said.

Sandel also said workforce training will be a priority.

“We are a very strong workforce college,” he said. “Franklin County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. ... Companies (in the county) won’t lose anything.”

Both Sandel and Godwin said Franklin County residents and students will not be impacted negatively in any way.

Everything that has been offered will continue to be offered, they said, and all expenses will be the same.

Future growth of programs offered in Franklin County also is a possibility as VWCC, which experienced a record year in enrollment last year, will be ready to “meet the demand,” Sandel said.

All community colleges have struggled with state funding cuts, with the percentages of state funds in their budgets dropping in recent years from around 60 percent to between 35 percent and 40 percent, Sandel said.

Although extra money initially earmarked for higher education in the state’s budget has been taken out because of a projected shortfall, Sandel said VWCC remains in a strong enough financial position to take over programs at The Franklin Center.

Kathy Hodges, Franklin Center director, said having only one community college at the center will result in a more “direct focus” of resources and planning.

“We see this as an opportunity to expand programs,” she said.

Godwin said both colleges will work together for a smooth transition.

“I have 100 percent confidence Virginia Western will step forward to use all of its resources to do the right thing for Franklin County,” she said. “This confirms for us that Franklin County is in good hands.”


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