WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – There is now more controversy surrounding Bluefield State College’s plans to bring some of its programs to the Ohio Valley.
About a month ago Bluefield State College and the City of Wheeling signed a memorandum of understanding that allows the college to go forward with its plans of opening a branch campus in the former OVMC complex.
However, there’s been plenty of pushback since then.
Wheeling University, West Liberty University and West Virginia Northern Community College have all made statements against the move. Several Wheeling City Council members are now rescinding their votes in favor of the new campus.
Speaking virtually to the Wheeling Rotary Club on Tuesday, Bluefield State College President Robin Capehart made the case for the location.
He said the college wants to bring engineering technology programs to this area because they’re needed.
We’re focusing on the needs of employers and we’re focusing on students.Robin Capehart, President, Bluefield State College
Capehart explained engineering technology programs that will be offered at their branch campus in Wheeling are not the same as engineering programs at other universities.
These are engineering technology programs. These are not the design part of engineering, these are the implementation of engineering. These are the people that actually go out and work in the gas fields or they work in the plant.Robin Capehart, President, Bluefield State College
Bluefield State did the research, talked to employers, and found out graduates with these skills can fill open jobs in the area.
Person after person said ‘yes these are exactly the programs we need’. These programs will provide the skill set we need for our business. They said we can get interns, but they’ll get interns that come from Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cleveland. So they come down and do their internship problem and they go back. The thing that could actually solve that is by offering those programs here.Robin Capehart, President, Bluefield State College
Capehart added that other local schools offer the specific program.
The only other schools in West Virginia that do are WVUTech and Fairmont State University.
I approached both the community college and Wheeling Jesuit and said would you like to partner with us on this? Partner with us, because I don’t want to go to Wheeling and hire an English professor because they all have Gen Ed requirements. They all have you have to take social sciences and different things outside of engineering and they didn’t want to do it.Robin Capehart, President, Bluefield State College
Capehart added the decision probably comes down to money because offering these two and four year engineering technology programs is expensive. He also said Bluefield State was given special dispensation for these programs years ago.
They could offer it and if they want to do it that’s fine. It’s going to take them three years and if they want to offer them that’s fine. If they were offering these programs up there we wouldn’t be anywhere near there.Robin Capehart, President, Bluefield State College
Opening this branch campus also requires approval from the Higher Education Policy Commission, which hasn’t happened yet.
Right now the plan is for Bluefield State to start online classes this fall and in-person classes in Wheeling in January of 2022.