The ceremony celebrating the dedication of the Fralin Center for Science and Health Professions is the biggest celebration Virginia Western Community College has had in 20 years. It's a major milestone not only for VWCC, but for the entire state. Governor Bob McDonell tells us expansion of higher education programs is a huge economic driver.
"The more young people we can get to go through these colleges at a low tuition and get a good job, the better our country and the better our state will be," McDonnell said.
Emphasizing the importance of higher education, he spoke at the dedication about how the average college graduate makes double the amount of someone with only a high school degree.
"They earn more, they contribute more, and drain government services less," McDonnell said. "So it really is a very prudent investment."
President of the college Dr. Robert Sandall says getting those degrees is now cheaper than ever.
"We are trying to make scholarships available to students with the Fralin $5 Million Gift and ... our Community College Access Program, which provides other scholarships. Then we have scholarships in addition to that, so we are trying to make it where money isn't an obstacle," Sandall said.
The college has 32 articulation agreements with UVA and Virginia Tech. UVA President Dr. Teresa Sullivan spoke along side Virginia Tech President Dr. Charles Stegar, who both say that hundreds of Virginia Western students transfer to these two universities each year.
Making $5 million available to future students, Heywood Fralin says this program is vital to boosting the economy in the Roanoke Valley by bringing back these graduates to our local workforce.
"Technology-based employers and research-based employers are the future to locate here in the Roanoke Valley," Fralin said. "We absolutely have to have an educated workforce and it starts right here at Virginia Western."