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VHCC, WCC Redesign Partnership
Efforts to enhance educational opportunities for Smyth County students have resulted in a redesigned partnership between Virginia Highlands Community College and Wytheville Community College, college leaders announced Monday,
The new arrangement will allow each community college to provide educational programs within its designated service region, ending the joint delivery of services at Smyth Career & Technology Center and The Summit Center for Higher Education in downtown Marion. Instead, beginning in August, WCC will provide all classes at The Summit and VHCC will provide all college-level courses at SCTC in Seven Mile Ford.
“The unique arrangement we previously enjoyed was a result of our unique service region,” said Dr. Gene C. Couch Jr., president of VHCC. “We’re confident this new partnership makes even more sense and will allow both colleges to effectively and efficiently serve the residents of Smyth County.”
Each of Virginia’s 23 community colleges has an assigned service region that is generally divided along county lines. When WCC and VHCC were created in the late 1960s, however, Smyth County was divided between the two colleges. VHCC was assigned the western end of the county, which includes Saltville and Chilhowie, while WCC was given the eastern portion of Smyth County that includes Marion. Service regions are designed to ensure a community college is within a 30-minute drive of every Virginia resident.
Because Smyth Career & Technology Center serves high school students throughout Smyth County, both colleges have long offered college-level courses there for dual enrollment credit. WCC offered Building Trades and Criminal Justice, for example, while VHCC offered electricity and emergency medical technology (EMT). Under the new agreement, VHCC will administer all college-level courses at SCTC.
Both colleges also came together in 2015 at the 1908 Schoolhouse in downtown Marion to create The Summit. The historic building was renovated to allow Smyth County students to attend classes closer to home.
“While we have enjoyed partnering with VHCC at The Summit, both colleges have encountered unintended challenges for students,” said Dr. Dean Sprinkle, WCC president.
Differing policies, academic calendars, and course requirements often created confusion for students enrolled at The Summit, he said, adding that the revised agreement will eliminate those issues.
“WCC is committed to providing classes at The Summit, and I am confident that VHCC will do an outstanding job in overseeing classes offered at the Smyth Career and Technology Center,” said Sprinkle. “We fully intend to continue working cooperatively with VHCC, and each college is committed to ensuring that Smyth County residents have access to high quality instruction and services.”