The University of Virginia's College at Wise. Courtesy of FAMartin.

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise announced Friday that it would use the majority of the $11.5 million in funding as proposed by outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam’s in his final two-year budget to aid the school in the recently released strategic plan “Your College For A Lifetime,” which aims to increase student enrollment, retain those students and help them graduate.  

More than $5.2 million would pay for two new undergraduate programs, including an applied data analytics major priced at $4.2 million to help pay faculty, support staff, marketing, equipment, classroom set ups and lab space. An additional $1 million would create a hospitality and tourism management degree, and other funds would support new programs to develop and retain faculty and staff and increase the college’s role as a vital economic partner in the Southwest Virginia region.

“This budget recommendation recognizes the unique role that UVa-Wise plays in educating our workforce and entrepreneurial leaders for today and tomorrow to build a strong, bright future in the heart of Appalachia,” UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry said in a news release. “These proposed funds would grow UVa-Wise to best ensure students are equipped with the qualifications they need to fill a variety of jobs in business and industry throughout the region. The funding will build a new, strong foundation for economic growth in Southwest Virginia for years to come,” Henry said.

Northam on Thursday rolled out his proposed budget for fiscal 2022-24, which totals $158 billion. Because of a strong economic recovery and federal aid during the pandemic, the  administration was able to set aside $1.7 billion to the commonwealth’s revenue reserves, bringing the total reserves amount to more than $3.8 billion. 

The flush general fund helps the state to tackle many projects that have long been on the wishlist of both parties, including educating new talent as well as creating ways to promote and support regional economic development efforts. “UVa-Wise is doing great things in Southwest Virginia to help the region’s economy grow and diversify,” Northam said in a joint meeting of the Senate and House money committees.

UVa-Wise would also receive $2.4 million to establish a child care center, and another $1.7 million that would be set aside for recruitment, retention and supporting student success, including funds to expand recruitment across the Appalachian region. About $2.2 million in funding would also create programs to enhance student performance, such as summer bridge programs designed to ease students’ transitions into college. 

Remaining proposed funds would support student professional development and experiential learning programs specifically tied to students’ majors and career interests.

All of the proposed budget recommendations would be funded from the commonwealth’s general fund, which must be adopted by Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin and be approved by the Senate and House of Delegates next year. But lawmakers representing the area applauded Northam’s proposal. 

“This is a big step forward to growing our College and providing opportunities for growth for the region,” said Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, the designated House Majority Leader. And state Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Washington County, said that UVa-Wise is an important regional asset for Southwest Virginia, which this budget recommendation recognizes. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate and House, as well as Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, to support and expand the college’s mission and impact in the commonwealth,” Pillion said.

Markus Schmidt

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at markus@cardinalnews.org.