The Roanoker - July/August 2017 - 73
cation initiatives, has become something of a fast-moving educational train of late. In 2017, it added doctoral
programs in nursing practice and health science for the
first time. It is also creating a School of Graduate and
Professional Studies for its 250 grad students.
JC was a nice little medical college in the 1980s, turning out nurses, offering two-year associate degrees and
certificates to about 200 students. Increasing demand,
says President Nathaniel Bishop, helped create the higher
levels of study.
Jefferson College now has 1,000 students from 32
states, and 25 programs, all at its Elm Avenue campus.
The educational component of Carilion has always been
a primary interest of Carilion CEO Nancy Agee, who
was once a nurse at Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
The college opportunities in Roanoke are relatively extensive.
* American National University, which began as a
small business college (National Business College) in
1886, now has 30 locations in six states, all headquartered in Salem. It offers diplomas, associate and bachelor's degrees. It is described as "a post-secondary and
unaccredited education institution."
* ECPI University claims students can earn a bachelor's degree in 2.5 years and an associate in 1.5. It offers
programs as wide-ranging as cloud computing, criminal
justice, health science and culinary arts.
* Virginia Western Community College's culinary
arts program in downtown Roanoke has become immensely popular.
* Miller-Motte Technical College, housed at Tanglewood Mall in Roanoke, offers health care disciplines,
massage and cosmetology.
Jefferson College of
The school added doctoral
programs in 2017.
Perhaps the most interesting story in pre-college education in the Roanoke Valley is the rise of Roanoke City's
two high schools, which only a few years ago languished
with a graduation rate of 54 percent. In 2016, for the 9th
straight year, Roanoke City schools' on-time graduation
rate has increased, this time to 87 percent.
This has been a steady improvement under the guidance of Superintendent Rita Bishop, who pointed to that
improvement as her top goal when she took the job in
2007 and the rate looked hopeless.
"I am probably prouder of our graduation rate than
just about anything," Bishop said in 2015, when Roanoke's schools broke their record at 86 percent graduation. When Bishop was hired by the district the rate, she
admitted, was "absolutely deplorable." One of Bishop's
first major efforts was opening Forest Park Academy, an
alternative education school designed for high school
students at risk of dropping out.
Overall, Roanoke Valley schools have solid graduation rates-Roanoke County 94.1 and Salem 94.9-and
have been known for that for some time.
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