2024-06-22 2:41 AM

Guest Commentary: NOVA Community College’s History & Value to the Region

Did you know Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) was established in 1964 under the name Northern Virginia Technical College? In 1965, the College opened with 761 students in a single building in Bailey’s Crossroads.

To accommodate its fast-growing student body, in 1966 the College purchased 78 acres in Annandale to create the first of six campuses. That same year, the College was renamed Northern Virginia Community College when the General Assembly changed the name of the technical college system to the Virginia Community College System.

In 1967, NOVA opened its new building on the Annandale Campus and continued to expand with the purchase of land for new campuses in Sterling, Manassas and Woodbridge. The growth continued with the purchase of an additional site in Alexandria in 1969.

Expanding the goal to serve students of all types, in 1975 NOVA opened the Extended Learning Institute to accommodate individuals who wanted an education but could not fit a traditional program into their schedules. Who could have predicted that by 2013 ELI would be offering more than 40 degrees and certificates that can be completed entirely online?

The sixth campus didn’t open until 2003. The specialized Medical Education Campus in Springfield was designed to meet employer demand for education in health professions.

Three years later, educational centers were opened in Arlington and Reston to reach people in those areas. Innovation Park Center in Manassas opened in 2008.

Today, under the guidance of President Robert G. Templin Jr., NOVA offers classes in more than 120 areas of study to 75,000 students from 180 countries.

Falls Church City has been involved with NOVA from its beginning in many ways but in particular through representation on NOVA’s Board. Along with other duties, Board members facilitate communication between NOVA and the governing bodies of the local political subdivisions.

The City Council appoints representatives for four-year terms with the possibility of a second and final four-year term. The five most recent representatives on the NOVA Board span a period of 40 years: 1974 to 1982: Jessie Thackrey, Chair 1979 to 1980; 1982 to 1990: Nancy Perry; 1990 to 1998: Tom Smolinski; 1998 to 2006: Jeff Tarbert, Chair 2005 to 2006; 2006 to 2014: Jerry Barrett, Chair 2013 to 2014.

Falls Church residents of all ages benefit from NOVA educational services. While most of our George Mason graduates are bound for four-year colleges, an average of 12 percent of each graduating class enrolls at NOVA each fall.

In today’s economy, it makes good financial sense for bachelor degree seekers to attend NOVA first. Through negotiated agreements, NOVA graduates are guaranteed admission to all the well-known Virginia four-year colleges and universities. Students who take this route save thousands of dollars on the way to a bachelor’s degree. Why pay more for the same diploma?

If you want to enter the workforce quickly, NOVA can educate you for a great job in two years or less. NOVA produces more nurses, healthcare workers and first responders than any other local institution. Additionally, more than 20,000 people annually stay competitive in the job market with NOVA’s Workforce Development programs.

Every year, thousands of students benefit from financial aid at NOVA and beyond. During the 2011-12 academic year, NOVA administered nearly $108 million in scholarships, grants, loans and student employment. Transfer students may be eligible for the Virginia Two-Year College Transfer Grant which provides up to $1,000 per year to complete a bachelor’s degree with an additional $1,000 for students enrolling in a science, teaching, engineering, mathematics or nursing degree.

Are you aware that the fastest growing segment of our population comes from families with no history of college attendance? To ensure these students are prepared, NOVA is working with K-12 school districts to improve college readiness. In addition, NOVA is expanding its successful Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program which supports students starting in high school, through NOVA and on to a four-year university.

NOVA also partners with nonprofit organizations to provide life-changing opportunities for underserved populations. One example is Northern Virginia Family Service’s Training Futures which provides a critical pathway to living wage jobs for high-potential, underemployed individuals. Through a co-enrollment agreement with NOVA, trainees earn 18 college credits and a career studies certificate. For many program graduates, that certificate encourages them to continue their educations.

These are just a few ways NOVA contributes to our local economy. Over the next 10 years, regional employers must fill approximately 600,000 new and replacement jobs and NOVA will need to play an ever-expanding role to meet the area’s needs for educated, skilled workers.

To continue to serve our community effectively, NOVA needs your support. Help us spread the good news about NOVA’s value to the region and the critical role NOVA plays in our lives.


Dr. Jerry Barrett is chair-elect of Northern Virginia Community College’s Board and a longtime Falls Church resident.






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