Emory & Henry College. Photo courtesy of the school.

Here’s a round-up of education briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Want more education news? There’s no full-time education reporter west of Richmond. You can help change that. Help fund us.

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Emory & Henry expects record enrollment

Emory & Henry College says it expects an all-time record number of overall enrolled students and an all-time record number of students living on campus this year. The college has increased its first year enrollment by 33% since the fall of 2020, according to a release from the school.

More than 450 new students will arrive on the campus starting August 6, with classes for fall semester officially starting August 15, when close to 700 upperclassmen return, the school says. It’s anticipated 900 students will be living on the Emory campus, setting a new residence record surpassing 858 last year. Overall enrollment on the Emory campus is expected to exceed 1,100 with another 280 graduate students in Marion working on advanced degrees in health sciences and health counseling. This is the first fall for new pre-nursing students to be on both campuses. 

Last year, college officials purchased and rented homes around the area to accommodate the growth and announced this spring to break ground on new apartments along College Drive and Hillman Highway to be occupied by summer 2023. This year, staff in the offices of Admissions and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Offices are moving into new space as those spaces are being converted back to residential quarters.

Emory said it expects students from 32 states and 11 countries. It’s also seeing a 84% increase students from Southwest Virginia.

For more on Emory & Henry’s enrollment increase, see this background story: “Emory & Henry going through a ‘creative reinvention.'”

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Monacan Chief Kenneth Branham with Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Tech launches new scholarship for Virginia’s recognized tribes

Virginia Tech has launched the Virginia Tech Tribal Match Scholarship, which provides up to $2,500 per academic year in matching funds to students who receive scholarships from any of Virginia’s 11 recognized tribes or the Virginia Tribal Education Consortium. It is available for the fall semester for both new and continuing students.

During the 1872 Forward: Celebrating Virginia Tech weekend in March, Monacan Chief Kenneth Branham requested a brief conversation with Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. He shared the financial burden tribal members have related to higher education, what the Monacan Indian Nation is doing to help, and wondered what assistance the university might also provide. This scholarship is the result.

Sam Cook, associate professor and director of American Indian studies, is the presidential advisor on American Indian Initiative. He also helped spearhead Virginia Tech’s American Indian minor in 1999.

Cook said the new scholarship was particularly relevant given the history of education and Indigenous people in Virginia. He said the original charter for the College of William & Mary included a mandate to educate Native people for assimilation’s sake, and more recently, Native Americans were barred from attending public schools until 1963.

It remains to be determined how many students will immediately benefit because many tribes have yet to award their scholarships for the fall, according to a statement from Melissa Faircloth, director of Virginia Tech’s American Indian and Indigenous Community Center,

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UVA Wise and Mountain Empire partner to improve educational rate in Southwest

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVA Wise) and Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) have partnered to help students bridge the gap from high school diplomas to college degrees in an effort to grow the educational attainment rate in Southwest Virginia.

A $75,000, two-year grant will fund the research needed to launch new pilot programs geared for improving access for rural students to attain higher education success. This summer begins the yearlong data analysis and pilot development phase. In fall 2023, the colleges will implement pilot programs. 

The collaborative research and analysis project is funded by State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the result of a successful proposal by UVA Wise and MECC for a Collaborative Equitable-Attainment Grant. 

The grant also hopes to explore ways to improve student success in earning business and technology degrees because the job opportunities in these areas are predicted to expand exponentially in the next five to ten years. Another focus of the project is helping address the critical shortage in nurses and teachers by making it easier for students to earn bachelor’s degrees in those areas. For some careers, an associate’s degree is the right choice but for others a bachelor’s degree is a better fit, Folds-Bennett said. 

The grant hopes to address the Commonwealth’s goal of reaching 70 percent of Virginians, ages 25 to 64, who attain an undergraduate degree, according to SCHEV recent publication, Pathways to Opportunity: The Virginia Plan for Higher Education.  As of 2017, Virginia’s figure was 38.7.

The 2020 U.S. Census indicated that in Wise County only 15 percent of adults had obtained a bachelor’s degree. Only 11 percent of the entire region’s population holds a bachelor’s degree, according to the GO Virginia Region 1 Growth and Diversification plan released last December. 

The schools are conducting in-depth data analysis on a longstanding project targeted at transitioning high school students to college graduates — the Appalachian Inter-Mountain Scholars (AIMS) Scholarship program. Those students are primarily recruited to Mountain Empire with a goal of attending a four-year college.

Established in 2003 at, AIMS Scholars are recruited as high school students who earn “C” or better grades, have 95 percent attendance and no out-of-school suspensions. Only students from Lee, Scott, Wise, Dickenson counties and the City of Norton high schools are eligible.

AIMS Scholars receive full tuition at MECC for up to three years, 72 credit hours, or completion of their first associate’s degree. They must attend starting the fall semester immediately after high school graduation, keep a 2.25 or higher GPA and maintain full-time status each semester until degree completion.

For those students who earn an associate degree from MECC and wish to obtain a bachelor’s degree at UVA Wise, they receive an additional three-year, full-tuition scholarship. 

Leadership at both institutions are exploring ways to increase student success by sharing dual admissions and recruitment through advising staff, courses, immersive learning and campus activities.

This summer, both colleges will start institutional research and data analysis which is expected to continue through January 2023.

“We want to understand the factors that predict success,” said UVA Wise Provost Trisha Folds-Bennett in a statement. “Student success is more than just coursework. It’s mentoring and support for professional development and having the practical experience through internships, undergraduate research and on-the-job training.”  Opportunities such as these will be included in the pilot programs. 

For more information on the AIMS Scholar Program, visit www.mecc.edu/aims or www.uvawise.edu/admissions.