U.Va.-Wise sees increase of enrollment deposits

BOV hears update from Chancellor of the College at Wise


U.Va.-Wise officials are working with outside parties to determine if creating a Collegiate Recovery Community is feasible and cost-effective for the college.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

The Board of Visitors Committee on the College at Wise assembled in the board room of the Rotunda Thursday for an update on the Wise campus, which is located in southwestern Virginia. Over the past year, the liberal arts college has increased enrollment, implemented new programs and proposed initiatives to improve students’ quality of life.

Donna Price Henry, Chancellor of the College at Wise, said the College has seen an increase in enrollment.

“Our current offers for admissions for the upcoming fall are running ahead of last fall and our admissions from last fall we actually had our largest enrollment numbers for over five years at the College,” Henry said. “Our deposits are up by 27 percent so more than double where they were last year at this time.”

Henry partially attributed this growth in deposits to earlier distribution of FAFSA and financial aid awards.

The College at Wise has also formalized reverse transfer agreements with community colleges to help transfer students acquire their associate’s degree. Reverse transfer agreements helped to facilitate the transfer of more students from Virginia Highlands Community College, which expanded transfers from about two students to 10.

“Part of our work plan has really been emphasis on our recruitment, marketing and retention of students,” Henry said. “We had an admitted students day last Friday. Typically, we have about 50 students who come to the college ... and [on Friday] we had close to 80 students and their families there from all over Virginia. So I think that’s another good sign that our work is beginning to do very well.”

Additional students have also been brought in through the Deferred Admissions Agreement, which allows Virginia residents waitlisted by the University to enroll in the College at Wise without having to undergo a separate application process. The program was initiated two years ago.

Options to improve student mental health and welfare are also currently under consideration. College at Wise officials are working with outside parties to determine if creating a Collegiate Recovery Community is feasible and cost-effective for the college. These communities provide a safe, supportive place for students to reside as they recover from drug and alcohol addiction. The goal is to help students recover and give them access to the resources they need without interrupting their studies.

“It would be a joint program that we would continue to work on with the support from U.Va.,” Henry said. “The hospital systems, they’re struggling with mental health frankly in southwest Virginia and with supporting [mental health] issues. And so it is something we want to make sure we have all the resources and support necessary to make it successful.”

This April, the College at Wise administrators will be meeting with the non-profit organization, The Haven at College, to discuss the practicality and costs of building and maintaining a Collegiate Recovery Community. If they decide to go through with the Collegiate Recovery Community program, the College at Wise plans to contract with the Haven, who will help them set up and manage the program.

“We understand that there are some risks involved in this,” University President Teresa Sullivan said. “And there is some expense because of additional personnel that you would have to hire to work with these students.”

Sullivan suggested adding a program fee on top of tuition to offset the cost of hiring more staff to reduce the financial risk of the program.

The College at Wise has also prioritized relieving financial stress on its students, particularly through lowering textbook prices. Administrators have encouraged professors to reuse textbooks when possible so that the bookstore can rent out used textbooks to students at a fraction of the cost. In addition, reusing textbooks saves the bookstore about $10,000 a year. Utilizing online textbooks is another alternative being considered.

“I knew books had gotten expensive because I paid for my niece’s books along the way when they went to college,” Henry said. “But, book prices have increased 161 percent from 1998 to 2014, which is pretty incredible to me, and they have gone up almost 1,000 percent since 1978 when I went to college … so you know it adds a lot to the cost of education.”

This year, the College at Wise has been focused on integrating more writing beyond freshman composition courses and across departments through the program, Wise Writes. Wise Writes holds workshops that teach faculty how to give meaningful feedback on writing assignments and how to incorporate more writing into their courses. 17 faculty members from different departments are already participating in the program.

Wise-Writes is also responsible for recent improvements to the writing center, which has been moved to the bottom floor of the main library. The writing center has increased operating hours and become more selective in the students it chooses to work at the center.

“Students and faculty work in close cooperation with the writing center to make sure everybody’s on the same page so the advice the students are getting from the writing center are in line with what the faculty want,” College at Wise Mathematics Prof. Matt Harvey said. “For now, I think the program is off to a really strong start.” 

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