Mired in red tape

"Steve Vaughan's article, 'Degree mired in red tape,' in the Aug. 22 Gazette told it like it is. Too bad that a letter by Charles Taylor, Thomas Nelson Community College president, in the Aug. 25 Gazette didn't do the same. It's a sad fact that Virginia higher education is still mired in the junior college model of the 1950s, stressing transfer courses at the expense of occupational programs. Community colleges, rather than being governed and funded locally, are subject instead to the heavy hand of state government in their budgeting and programming. Innovations that might occur in months instead take years. The Fire Science Technology program proposed by TNCC used a model curriculum assembled with considerable effort by fire and emergency service professionals at the local, state and national levels, and published early in 2006. One might think that it could have been on a fast track for approval by the state's higher education bureaucracy once TNCC determined it could provide it and the Peninsula's fire professionals indicated their support. But then, maybe two years is the fast track. The associate degree program in paralegal studies, cited by Taylor as a process that took about three months, was in fact being promoted in the fall of 2004 and has been a top TNCC priority for state approval. Degree programs in the hospitality area were envisioned in 2005 as possible signature programs for the new Historic Triangle campus, now finally under construction after years of delay caused by repeated face-offs between the Virginia Community College System and James City County. In the meantime, the possibility of designing in a culinary arts program for the new facility has apparently been discarded, at least partly because of the budgetary rigidities imposed by the state bureaucracy controlling the community colleges. So Williamsburg's hospitality industry must continue referring its current and potential culinary employees to Richmond. Presumably folks on the lower Peninsula will also have to remain frequent tunnel users to attend Tidewater Community College's culinary classes. It seems funny that the community colleges serving the Richmond and Southside areas can afford such programs while TNCC can't. Virginia would be well-served by a broad-based review of its system for higher education governance and funding, especially as it relates to community colleges."

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