OPINION COLUMNS

College will open up new opportunities

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, January 4, 2012

GOING UP - Construction of Weatherford College Wise County should be complete by June. Classes will begin in the fall. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Weatherford College Wise County has come a long way from being housed in an old Wal-Mart building.

What was once tucked in an old shopping center promises to change the local landscape – physically and intellectually. The new campus is being built atop a hill between Bridgeport and Decatur with entrances on U.S. 380 and Farm Road 1655. Construction will be complete in June 2012, and classes will be held there beginning in the fall.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

I’ve regurgitated the above information or something similar in several stories throughout the last three years, and while it’s easy to file away (new campus, location, opening date), I want to suggest there is a greater significance.

Consider the benefits of having a college within 10 minutes of almost every home in Wise County. Consider the opportunities.

There hasn’t been a college with a permanent home here since 1965. This is a historical event.

WCWC’s predecessors were Greenwood Male and Female College (1891-1908) and Decatur Baptist College (1897-1965).

The school in Greenwood burned and was never rebuilt, and Decatur Baptist moved and became a four-year college, Dallas Baptist University.

In the decades since, students pursuing higher education had to hit the road. Some moved away to attend four-year universities, and many commuted to the Weatherford College main campus or to North Central Texas College in Gainesville. Since the late 1980s, Weatherford College offered classes in Wise County, first at local high schools in the evenings and eventually expanding to rent its own facility and offer several classes, but not a complete degree.

Students have also opted to drive back and forth to Denton daily to attend the University of North Texas or Texas Woman’s University.

But for some, the drive was too much in time and gas money, and they couldn’t locally complete a degree at WCWC. A permanent campus here with a large selection of classes and class times will allow students to make the most of their time and will keep them close for family, work and other community commitments.

When the new campus opens, WCWC will boast a cosmetology school, nursing program, emergency medical training, law enforcement training and a paramedicine program. Associate Dean Matt Joiner said they will also bring back programs for certified nurse’s assistant and phlebotomy, as well as adding a plan for medication aide.

Some of these are short, meaning in just a matter of months, a student can be ready to start a career, not just a job, but a career where they can grow and establish themselves as a professional while providing for themselves and their loved ones.

The college has been a long time coming. Although Weatherford College has offered classes in Wise County for many years, official talk of a permanent campus did not begin until 2007.

A unique arrangement was made in that the county will own the building, and Weatherford College will lease the facility from the county. There are only two other such arrangements in the state, making Wise County a trailblazer in bringing higher education to rural communities.

At times the process of creating the agreement between the county and college and finalizing construction plans has been tedious. It’s been easy to focus on the negative, and some may have even started doubting the viability of the idea.

Every project has potholes, surprises and challenges, but this project also holds promise.

The promise of higher education. The promise of improved lives.

Despite the occasional political maneuver or bickering behind the scenes, I’m proud of county officials and college leaders for recognizing a need in the community and doing their best to meet it.

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