When It Comes to Regionalism, Education Must Be in the Conversation

Posted by Rachael Wilbur
Read the “Their View” opinion piece written by President Jake B. Schrum and published in the Bristol Herald Courier.

Originally published in the Bristol Herald Courier 

By: Jake B. Schrum, President of Emory & Henry College

I appreciate the recent efforts being put forth by our area chambers of commerce, government officials, health care leaders and business leaders as they consider the impact of regional marketing and collaboration to attract growth in businesses while enhancing our quality of life.

In light of the recent article on UVa-Wise that ran in The Daily Progress and The Bristol Herald Courier’s blog site on Jan. 1, regarding the UVa-Wise dip in enrollment and reduced tuition offering, I wish to emphasize that, as we talk about all of the benefits in the region, we must have higher education at the forefront and appreciate the impact it has on our community at large.

New businesses will expect a sound talent pool of lifelong learners and thinkers — those who can embrace new technology and solve problems, those who can think outside of the box. Liberal arts schools blended with professional studies, like Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia, have taught our students this since our founding in 1836. Generations of graduates have stayed in the area to make a difference and contribute to the growth of the region. They find solutions to problems. They contribute to society for the greater good. The United Way of Southwest Virginia Ignite Program is geared toward reaching out to students in K-12 to help them understand what their future can be and show them how to equip themselves for a well-lived life and one of curiosity and contribution. We, among other colleges, are proud to partner with this initiative.

Our region has a rich resource of bright minds of all ages, as well as the tools available now or in the future to grow with market demands at our various higher educational institutions. The ability to draw students here from across the world and fuel our economies and communities is more practical than ever.

To soften the impact of what a college education can cost, Emory & Henry introduced the Southwest Virginia LIFT program in 2016 — offering free or reduced tuition to eligible students in the region who may not have the ability to pay. To date over 100 students have joined our community with very little out-of-pocket costs for tuition. In addition, we gave more than $7 million to students in merit scholarships and grant funding just this year that significantly reduced their overall costs — similar to what they would pay at a state institution. We also offer the Bonner Scholars Program, where students with little ability to pay can get free tuition, room and board for time spent on civic engagement projects, impacting our communities while they are studying. Many go on to improve communities and quality of life for many underprivileged areas.

I encourage families to talk about higher education with their children and not to be afraid to ask — how can we afford this? Are we saving now? What options are available later? Emory & Henry is proud to support and serve many first-generation college students. The look in their eyes and the tears on their family’s faces at commencement prove the sacrifice and commitment is worth it. As higher education leaders, we owe this to the commonwealth and the region.

  • Students engage on campus together.
    Students engage on campus together.
Our region has a rich resource of bright minds of all ages, as well as the tools available now or in the future to grow with market demands at our various higher educational institutions. The ability to draw students here from across the world and fuel our economies and communities is more practical than ever.
-President Jake B. Schrum

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