Thanks to partnerships with Wytheville Community College and a handful of four-year colleges in Virginia, local students can now earn associates’, bachelors’ and masters’ degrees without having to leave Galax.
The Crossroads Institute’s Higher Education Center in Galax now offers students the chance to earn associates’ degrees through WCC, the possibility of bachelors’ degrees through UVa-Wise, Bluefield College and Averett University, and masters’ degrees through Averett and the New College Institute of Martinsville.
“If everything matched up, they could go from start to finish in Galax. We are really excited about the Wytheville Community College presence in the area - that we are working together. And then if a student completes their course of studies there, then they could go into one of these programs for a bachelors’ degree,” said Oliver McBride, Executive Director of the Crossroads Institute. “And then if they happened to be interested in social work or in business administration for a master’s degree, they could potentially do that here as well.”
A group of six students from the Crossroads’ Higher Education Center will be the first from the area to graduate from Averett University on April 27 with their masters’ degrees. In the meantime, the Galax facility continues to work to build relationships with other colleges and universities that might bring bachelors’ and masters’ degree programs into the community.
“Based on the last census there are about 10,000 people who live in the Carroll County, Grayson County and Galax region who have some college completed, but haven’t earned a degree,” McBride said. “Of that 10,000, there are 3,000 who have associates’ degrees. And what we would like to encourage is that people look for the opportunities that might come available and that are available to continue their education and complete their bachelors’ degrees or earn masters’ degrees. We are really excited about the opportunity.”
The majority of the programs the Higher Ed Center is looking at would be for folks who have finished their associates’ degree through WCC or another community college, and have finished two years of college.
“We certainly encourage people to look at the opportunities Wytheville offers our region at the Crossroads facility and at their campus in Wytheville to earn associates’ degrees and then pick up there to earn their bachelors’ degrees,” McBride said.
Bluefield College will offer six bachelors’ programs at the Higher Ed Center online. Bachelors’ degrees that will be offered in Galax through Bluefield include Criminal Justice, E-Business & Entrepreneurship, Human Services, Management & Leadership, Public Safety, and RN-BSN Nursing. Bluefield begins new sets of programs every eight weeks, meaning students can effectively start just about anytime they wish.
“They are using our facility as a place to do orientation and information sessions about these programs,” McBride said. “The classes aren’t located here, they are done online, but they are using this facility and recognizing that it is here for the purpose of helping people achieve higher education.”
UVa-Wise also is looking into the possibility of offering two bachelors’ degree programs at the Higher Ed Center in Galax this fall, and another in the fall of 2014. Possibilities for this fall are Business Administration and Accounting, while Psychology is a possibility for 2014.
“There programs would be cohort programs, meaning they will start out a group of people here and in other places in Southwest Virginia who may be interested in their programs,” McBride said. “They will start them out as a group and they will go through that program over essentially two years and complete their bachelor’s degree in that period of time. Everybody in that cohort is taking the same classes at the same time. We think that is really a good way because you have the encouragement of having other people who are going through the same experience as you are at the same time. We are very excited about that.”
The reason the UVa-Wise programs are listed as possibilities is because the university is still in the process of recruiting students for the programs. If it can get enough students enrolled, the programs will be offered in Galax.
“They are looking for people to make applications to the programs and begin to be admitted students at UVa-Wise. Some of their programs are going to be online, some are going to be distance learning. They kind of use a combination,” McBride said. “They have implemented this successfully in other locations and have offered it to people in our area.”
McBride said the Higher Education Center is also working with the New College Institute of Martinsville. The college is looking to offer courses in Galax as well, primarily in the area of education for folks interested in getting an elementary education endorsement.
“They have a program through Longwood they would like to offer, and they have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work through Norfolk State that they would be offering here. And they have some other possibilities they want us to consider as well,” McBride said.
Representatives from all of those colleges and universities are scheduled to be at the Crossroads Institute’s main building on Thursday, April 18 from 1-3 p.m. during a career fair. McBride is excited about the opportunity to display those programs to the folks of the region, but also about the job prospects that will be available to citizens that day.
“My understanding is they have 36 or 38 people coming to set up for their career fair. They have people coming who are hiring, who have jobs. It’s a real good feeling,” McBride said. “All our (educational) partners are going to be present to share with people some of these opportunities that are available, so we would encourage people to come by for that.”
Hitting even closer to home, McBride is excited about the Criminal Justice degree that will be offered in Galax by Bluefield College. With the new prison set to open in Grayson County in the near future, McBride said the program could be extremely beneficial for Twin County residents.
“Part of what they would look for is people who have had some background, some experience in criminal justice training. We are hoping that of the people who may be employed there that this opportunity would be important to them because they might get a job. But in order to advance, if they had a bachelor’s degree in their field that could be very important to them,” McBride said. “They also have a master’s degree in business administration. We would like to start another cohort group for that, then they have a Bachelor’s in Administration that they want to offer.”