Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr. and Virginia Western Community College President Robert Sandel sign an agreement to launch the schools' new transfer partnership. Photo by Carissa Divant, courtesy of Roanoke College.

A new agreement between Virginia Western Community College and Roanoke College will offer some students a clear path between the two-year college and the private four-year school. 

The program is designed for area students who either apply to Roanoke College but decide to attend community college first, or who don’t get accepted to Roanoke College and enroll at VWCC instead. 

Students in the new Rapid Maroons program who complete at least 21 credit hours with a grade-point average of at least 2.0 at VWCC will be able to transfer to Roanoke College without reapplying. 

“This partnership is another important piece in our ongoing effort to create pipelines to Roanoke College and partnerships in our community,” Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr. said in a statement. “We hope to see these Rapid Maroons on the Roanoke College campus as often as possible. We expect the joint advising will help to keep these students on a four-year path to graduation. We want Rapid Maroons to have a sense of belonging on our campus long before they begin the transfer process.”

The program name is a nod to the Roanoke College mascot, a “maroon-tailed” hawk.

The students will have access to Roanoke College advisors while studying at VWCC, which can help ease the process of transferring to complete their intended major. They’ll be able to experience student life at Roanoke College through participation in student clubs and intramural sports, and access to community events. 

The schools are about 8 miles apart, with VWCC in Southwest Roanoke and Roanoke College located in Salem. VWCC students can ride Valley Metro buses for free when class is in session. 

In the 2019-2020 academic year, 9% of VWCC students who transferred went to Roanoke College, according to a joint release from the schools. 

Like many small schools, Roanoke College has battled declining enrollment in recent years, though its freshman class in 2023 is the largest since 2019, according to data from the college. Combined freshman and transfer students this year total more than 600. The new partnership with VWCC may help Roanoke College better anticipate transfer enrollment.

The program may also help students who want to attend Roanoke College but find the cost to be a barrier. Tuition at Roanoke College is nearly $35,000 per year, before room and board and fees. A student taking 12 credits at VWCC each semester can expect to pay about $4,200 per year for tuition and fees. That’s before any financial aid is applied at either school.

Typically, a student must earn 60 credits to get an associate degree.

Several area schools have built relationships with nearby community colleges

Radford University, a state school, has a similar program for applicants who don’t meet academic requirements for admission. They can attend New River Community College in Dublin for their first year while living on Radford’s campus. 

Ferrum College offers the Ferrum Promise to some students transferring from any Virginia community college with an associate degree. If they aren’t able to complete their bachelor’s degree in two years, Ferrum, a private college, will foot the bill for the difference. 

At the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, many students transferring from a Virginia community college with their associate degree are guaranteed admission to Wise and get priority over other transfer applicants. A program between UVA Wise and Virginia Highlands Community College allows computer science, exercise science or education students who earn their associate degrees to transfer directly to the four-year school. 

Lisa Rowan is education reporter for Cardinal News. She can be reached at or 540-384-1313.