An investment of more than $12 million has been approved by the Virginia General Assembly that will drive enrollment growth at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVa-Wise).
The funding supports two new undergraduate programs that will diversify student career pathways and increase regional job creation. In addition, increased student financial aid and further improvements to student success services are also prioritized.
The state legislature approved the funds Wednesday, sending their 2022-24 biennial, or two-year, state budget to the governor for approval or amendment. If approved, the budget will take effect July 1.
“We are excited about this significant investment, which allows us to add academic programs and grow the enrollment at the college. Our work prepares students for lifelong career success and provides an educated workforce for businesses and organizations in Southwest Virginia as we continue to create a strong and thriving region,” UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry said.
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In addition to providing increased undergraduate financial aid, the budget positions the college to educate and train a pipeline of talent in the Southwest Virginia through two new undergraduate programs: applied data analytics and hospitality and tourism management. Support for additional faculty, staff, marketing, equipment, classroom set ups and lab space is included in program development allocations.
The applied data analytics program will be an interdisciplinary program designed to serve needs in health informatics, business analytics and economic forecasting.
The hospitality and tourism management program will be designed to support the region’s burgeoning tourism economy, including the new Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Bristol. Degree tracks within the program will explore ecotourism and agritourism to showcase the region’s vast natural resources.
These two key undergraduate programs will educate the workforce that regional employers need to thrive and will provide viable career pathways so that students who graduate from UVa-Wise can reside in Southwest Virginia and attain a successful career here in the region.
Funding for graduate financial aid was also included and is complemented by investments to assist the college in building the infrastructure to support UVa-Wise’s developing master’s degree programs, including offerings for nurse practitioners and teachers.
Employees of the college will also see an impact from the funds as the budget includes a 5% salary increase for full-time employees in each year, as well as a one-time, $1,000 bonus that will be distributed in December 2022.
A child care center to help meet Southwest Virginia’s regional needs was also part of the package. To support this, UVa-Wise will establish an early childhood endorsement within the College’s Teacher Education program that would provide a skilled workforce for child care facilities by allowing students to gain valuable experience at the on-campus space.
The new funding package also aids the college in fulfilling its recently released strategic plan, “Your College For A Lifetime.” An important part of that new vision is to increase student enrollment, strengthen support for students during their time at the college, and help them graduate.
To develop new programs, enrollment growth and student retention, additional recruiting staff and marketing initiatives will be added. These funds will create programs to enhance student performance, which includes developing summer bridge programs designed to ease students’ transitions into college. The investment also provides the resources to establish a student success collaborative and offer clearer pathways for timely graduation. Additionally, new funding will open opportunities for student professional development and experiential learning programs specifically tied to students’ majors and career interests.
“We are very grateful to our legislators who advocated tirelessly for us, knowing the possibilities that a UVa-Wise education makes possible for students,” Chancellor Henry said. “At UVa-Wise, everyone’s success matters: that of our students, alumni, colleagues, and members of our regional community. We’re excited about this investment and its ability to support our entire ecosystem.”