Bluefield State president says new status won’t help with all needs

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — The president of Bluefield State College anticipates his school will become a university on July 1.

Robin Capehart

Rob Capehart, appeared Friday on MetroNews “Talkline,” a day after the state Higher Education Policy Commission cleared the way for the university designation.

Capehart said the next step will be to get his school’s Board of Governors to sign off on the plan and he’ll recommend making the change official on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. There will be legislation involved, but he said it will not have any bearing on the actual change.

“I think there will be statutory changes just to change the law just because throughout the code, we’re referred to as Bluefield State College,” said Capehart.

It’s not Capehart’s first time with the process, he also oversaw West Liberty University’s transition into university status while serving as the President there.

The change will mean the school will be able to offer graduate programs, but they will still not be able to offer two-year programs to meet the needs of some of the local employers.

According to Capehart, they’ve previously attempted to implement two year programs for needs like surgery technicians, but the HEPC wouldn’t grant the programs and said they were to be directed to the local community college. Capehart said the programs were directed to the community college but were never implemented.  He said the problem is creating those programs is too costly for the community and technical schools and the need remains.  His institution, if allowed, could absorb the cost by attaching the two year degree to already existing programs.

He was not optimistic the change to university status would help in those areas.

“It raises the prestige and the visibility of the institution, it does that, but I don’t know that it will necessarily have a direct impact on the flexibility we need,” he said.

Capehart said his administration has identified 14 two year programs they would like to add to assist local employers who have a need for a trained workforce. He said only one of the state’s community colleges offered three of those same programs, but they were all denied since they are two year degrees. The situation frustrated Capehart.

“We just want the flexibility to respond to the needs we have and if nobody else is going to offer these programs, I’m a little confused as to why we can’t,” he said.

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