Citing education as the key to long-term economic prosperity in the rural 15th District, Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) announced his proposal to expand the services offered by Lord Fairfax Community College in his district Monday. Gilbert proposes to double the services currently provided by the Luray-Page County Center within five years. The proposal will include:
Expanding “Workforce Solutions” to bring vocational and career and technical opportunities currently offered only at the Middletown and Fauquier campuses into the area.
LFCC could offer local courses for those seeking new careers in such areas as health care, advanced computing, and the construction trades utilizing current classroom space and other resources, including those within local school systems such as the Page County Technical Center.
Revisiting funding formulas for community colleges which are currently based solely on credit courses offered by the community college. The formula excludes non-credit career and technical educational opportunities which benefit the local community.
Expanding “Dual-Enrollment” opportunities in all counties for high school students seeking to acquire early college credits. Such credits are cost-effective for both students and parents as tuition at public and private colleges and universities continues to rise, particularly in the current economic climate.
Increasing partnerships with local industries and businesses to tailor college courses and “Workforce Solutions” classes to meet their specific needs and foster economic development.
Increasing “Distance Learning” opportunities to allow students to remain closer to home while pursuing two-year degrees. The proposal would also allow students at the Luray-Page County Center to obtain undergraduate degrees through Old Dominion University that are currently offered only at the Middletown campus.
Gilbert says, “My father had to drop out of college for lack of money. After retiring as the plant manager at Rocco Farm Foods in Edinburg many years later, he decided to pursue his education at Lord Fairfax Community College. He earned an Associate’s Degree with honors and was a member of the prestigious Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. For nearly 30 years, my mother has worked as a public school teacher in Shenandoah County, where she continues to teach to this day.
"I am thankful that my parents worked hard to give me the opportunity to attend the University of Virginia, one of the finest universities in America. But I am also thankful that my father was able to take advantage of the wonderful educational opportunities offered by our community college system.
"Since taking office, I enjoyed working with the previous administration at Lord Fairfax Community College to ensure access to education in my district. In the past year, I have worked with local leaders and school administrators who just last week announced new LFCC coursework opportunities through Shenandoah County Public Schools. I am now encouraged to hear the willingness of Dr. Cheryl Thompson-Stacy to expand LFCC’s services in our area, especially in economically hard hit places like Page County.
"Local school administrators also continue to be receptive to offering more college and technical courses on their campuses. Education is vital to encouraging rural entrepreneurship and empowering people to take control of their own future. Everyone agrees that education is a key element in the future economic and social well-being of rural areas such as our own.”
Funding for the proposal will be based on higher education remaining a priority for House Republicans as the economy begins to recover and revenue streams stabilize and grow. House Republicans have a proven record of supporting community colleges in recent years by investing in the community college system and promoting accessibility to four-year institutions by community college transfer students.
Gilbert has joined in these efforts and has demonstrated his effectiveness as a legislator by successfully advancing a number of other legislative initiatives on behalf of his district.
The increased economic activity spurred by rural entrepreneurship and a skilled workforce will ultimately increase long-term revenues as well. Funding for dual-enrollment will come largely from the resulting savings from diverting more students from taking full course loads at four-year institutions.
Gilbert is a member of the House Education Committee and chairs one of its sub-committees.