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WVU Tech hopes revitalization a hit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Administrators at West Virginia University Institute of Technology hope continued upgrades to services and buildings will encourage more students to graduate from the Montgomery-based school.

The school is trying to enact a "revitalization plan" following a 2011 report made to state legislators that was critical of academic, structural and financial issues within the school. Since then, Tech has received $750,000 from the state Higher Education Policy Commission for the first year of its revitalization plan.

Close to $400,000 went to the creation of a Student Success Center - a portion of the school library where students will have access to academic and mental health advisers, as well as computers and study space.

Carolyn Long, campus executive officer, said the space will offer an inviting area for students to interact and study. It's also the first time the school has employed personnel devoted solely to academic and mental health counseling.

Long hopes the center will also attract more students and encourage them to stay on. Like most West Virginia colleges and universities, less than half of Tech's students graduate within six years. A big part of that problem is making sure freshmen come back for their sophomore year, Long said.

"We had other ways that we were working with freshmen, but we didn't have a completely coordinated way. So this not only meets the needs of our freshmen but some of our other students that need places to come and study, want to study with groups, those sort of things," Long recently told the Daily Mail.

The second largest expenditure of the first year recruitment and retention plan is devoted to mini-fridges. The school will spend nearly $145,000 to buy the appliances and make sure building electricity can accommodate them. It's buying 216 refrigerators; that covers 80 percent of the 270 on-campus housing units, at a cost of $439 per fridge.

Tech also plans to provide free laundry for all students living in residence halls, at a cost of a little more than $20,000.

More than $130,000 is dedicated to installing wireless Internet around campus. The availability of WiFi was a serious problem for many students - now, it's available in every dorm room, Long said. It should be available in every class by the start of next year.

Tech will also ask the Legislature for nearly $8 million for capital improvement projects. More than half of that money is for upgrades at Ratliff Hall, one of the dorms, Long said. It needs a new roof, sprinkler system, and air conditioning system. Tech wants to install a new elevator in the building as well.

The university also snatched up a new academic program when Mountain State University lost its accreditation. Following the decision to shutter the Beckley-based school, Tech was awarded the opportunity to continue to provide the program and several others through a "teach-out plan" - the guide for current Mountain State students required by the school's former accrediting body.

The former head of Mountain State's forensics program is now employed at Tech. Long recently told the Daily Mail she thought the program fit nicely with Tech's mission, and she anticipated it would lead to increased enrollment.

For fall 2012, a little more than 1,100 students were enrolled at Tech. That's almost 23 percent less than its enrollment in 2007.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

 


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