Getting Two-Year Colleges on Agenda

Perhaps Gov. Jim Justice is right to insist a panel examining four-year colleges and universities stick to its original mission. But at some point — the sooner, the better — community and technical colleges need to be looked at, too.

Justice established the Blue Ribbon Commission on Four-Year Higher Education to provide recommendations on policy toward public institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees and higher. Clearly, a realistic examination of the network of them in West Virginia — and how to maximize state resources — is needed.

But two-year schools are critical, too — more so to many students than the bigger colleges and universities. Community and technical colleges offer a means of obtaining post-secondary education, often hands-on career training, more quickly and economically than spending four or more years on campus.

Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission understand that. They recommended Justice make two-year schools part of the project.

He refused, saying the panel should finish its work on four-year colleges and universities before branching out.

Given the short amount of time available before state legislators convene for their annual regular meeting, that may be wise. Clearly, the governor and some lawmakers want to see recommendations from the panel in time for action next winter.

But a similar sense of urgency is needed regarding two-year institutions. Around 21,000 Mountain State residents choose them for higher education. A comprehensive look at how to make them better is vital, too.

Justice should follow up his refusal to expand the original commission with a concrete, detailed plan for a comprehensive higher education study that includes two-year colleges.

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