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HEPC aims to double number of students seeking education after high school

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission is setting its sights on college attainment.

“The new attainment goal that was just announced today is shooting for 60 percent of all working age West Virginians by the year 2030,” said Dr. Corley Dennison, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Over the course of the next 12 years, Dennison said the HEPC will work with education leaders to reach students across the state in an effort to nearly double the amount of four-year degrees, two-year degrees, and completed certificate programs.

“Not only do we need to keep more West Virginians in college once they decide to go, we also need to reach out and get more West Virginians to decide to attend college,” he said.

West Virginia’s Climb, the new program announced Wednesday in Morgantown, is aimed specifically at helping students improve their access to college, the necessary resources to attend college, and understanding the value in a postsecondary attainment.

“A number of other states have had attainment goals and it really seems to crystalize the idea of college completion among the business community and among the education community in those states that have had success with that,” Dennison said.

The challenges of a modern economy, particularly one that offers less stability in long-term careers and fewer candidates for them, are always on the minds of educators, Dennison said.

“Students are going to have to realize it is life long learning, “he said. “That I earn this first degree or certificate, I may have to go back and earn another certificate and then another.”

Former Governor Bob Wise spoke at the Student Success Summit about that very subject.

“With the gig economy, it might be possible that someone could change jobs 14 times between the time they graduate from college and reach the age of 40,” Dennison said.

Dennison said input from the business community will help — particularly in understanding the breakdown of what kind of postsecondary attainment students will need in the future.

“I think it’s something that we can really talk to the business community about,” Dennison said. “It’s something that we can crystallize the business and educational communities on the goals and then start finding out ways that we can communicate in order to get more West Virginians the post-secondary credentials.”

Only 34.7 percent of West Virginians aged 25 to 64 held at least a workforce-relevant certificate. And as of the fall of 2017, only 55 percent of recent West Virginia high school graduates were enrolled in college.

The highest percentage by county of working-aged certificate- and degree-holders is Monongalia at 45 percent, while the lowest is McDowell at eight percent.

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