Shore Group Pushes for 4-Year University

Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore Newsletter, July 2019

By Terry Malarkey, President, University of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Foundation

For the past year, a group of Shore residents has been researching the desirability and possibility of a 4-year college (Shore U) here. In March, convinced of the educational, cultural, and economic benefits of such an institution, the group sent a proposal to Governor Northam and our other elected representatives. The proposal can be seen on the blog of the University of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Foundation’s website (www.EShoreU.org).

The proposal asks that:

  • At least 1 resident of the Eastern Shore of Virginia be appointed to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), in order that the higher educational needs of the Shore receive a voice in Richmond.

  • The SCHEV take the lead in revitalizing the “Rural Horseshoe,” as recommended by former Governor Baliles in his Sept 2018 speech. This rural horseshoe, starting on the Eastern Shore, includes 2.1 of the 8.3 million Virginian residents and 70% of Virginia’s land mass. As Baliles said, “if the rural horseshoe were considered a separate state, it would be tied dead last with Mississippi and West Virginia for educational attainment levels, … high school diplomas, and … college degrees” (https://www.martinsvillebulletin.com/news/a-tale-oftwo-virginias-baliles-believes-education-can-rebuild/article_889d77bf-b55e-566f-b770-b2db73922117.html).

  • A Commission be formed, funded, and tasked with further exploring the potential for Shore U on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. (The group would be honored to volunteer members to participate in this effort.)

Progress

With contributions from local residents, we established a 501(c)(3) foundation to research, promote, plan for, and assist in the creation of Shore U. Next were a website and a Facebook page.

The Foundation then developed an Action Plan that has been adopted as a project by the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission. Work has now begun to locate potential sites for Shore U and to identify individuals with higher-education expertise here on the Shore to help guide these efforts.

A Model: University of Virginia’s College at Wise

From its founding in 1954, with a pioneering class of 109 students, to the present, with approximately 2,000 students and 140 faculty members, University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVa-Wise) has had a profound positive impact on the economic well-being of both Wise County and the Commonwealth. This is consistent with the effects of universities seen in rural areas all throughout the country.

A 2015 study showed that “direct spending by UVa-Wise … in combination with the indirect and induced impacts of dollars being re-spent throughout the economy generated $84 million” in the Commonwealth, including 680 jobs. The Shore deserves the same!

Cooperation With the Community College The prospect of having both a 4-year institution and the Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC) on the Shore has caused some anxiety. It’s important to recognize, however, that all across the Commonwealth, 4-year institutions and community colleges co-habit, co-operate, and co-exist for the benefit of all. There is no reason to think that this would be any different on the Shore, as the 2 types of institutions are complementary, not competitive. Moreover, while ESCC draws its students only from the Shore, Shore U will also draw from other counties, other states, and other countries.

The Dream

Shore U is envisioned as a 4-year institution that emphasizes STEM-H (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, as well as Health Studies). With this focus, Shore U is anticipated to eventually attract 2,000 students and to bring in up to 1,000 good jobs and up to $100 million to the Shore. It is hard to think of other projects with this kind of impact.

The Foundation’s Board believes that there is no question that this will help to reverse decades of decline, and encourages everyone to ask their elected representatives what they are doing to advance this project.

Terry MalarkeyComment