Posted on Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Did you know that one in four Virginians across parts of the Rural Horseshoe have less than a high school education?

A recent report from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) stated that partnerships between schools and their local communities play a major role in educational attainmentWorkforce-Wednesday for low-income students in rural Virginia.

Rural Horsehoe_blog

New River Community College hosts a “Spaghetti and Basketball” event at Radford High School. The goal was to bring students and their families together to the school to interact with faculty and staff on an informal basis and make connections. This type of parent outreach is a priority for the full-time coaches. High school career coaches organized the event alongside school staff.

Virginia’s Community Colleges support the idea of community involvement to prepare Virginians in rural areas for education and employment. Through the Rural Virginia Horseshoe Initiative (RVHI), Virginia’s Community Colleges tackle the challenge of preparing people in the state’s rural crescent for the jobs of the future.

The goal of RVHI is to increase educational attainment rates in rural parts of Virginia stretching from the Eastern Shore, through Southside and Southwest Virginia, and up the Shenandoah Valley. This horseshoe region comprises 75% of Virginia’s geography.

The rest of Virginia, sometimes called the urban/suburban “crescent”, stretches from Northern Virginia, down through Richmond, and over to the Tidewater/Virginia Beach area.

If this crescent were its own state, it would rank #2 in terms of educational attainment. If the Horseshoe were, it would be tied for #50. It is this disparity that the RVHI addresses, particularly in light of the estimate that by 2020, 66% of jobs will require some postsecondary education or training.

There are two goals that RVHI aims to accomplish in 10 years:

1. Reduce by 50% the number of Horseshoe residents who lack a high school diploma or its equivalence (currently nearly 1 in 4 to 1 in 8).
2. Double the number of residents in the Horseshoe with an associate’s degree or other college certification from 26% to 53%.

Key strategies towards achieving these goals are to increase the number of full-time high school career coaches at the community colleges, provide GED incentives, and expand opportunities for foster youth through the Great Expectations Program.

If you have an interest in helping improve the education gap in Rural Virginia, there are ways you can help. Use the form located on the Virginia Community College Website to become a Rural Horseshoe Initiative volunteer.

SCHEV’s full report, entitled Doing More with Less: The Role of School-Community Partnerships in the Academic Success and Postsecondary Aspirations of Low-Income Students in Small Rural Schools in Virginia, is available on the SCHEV website at'

Amanda Christopher

Amanda Christopher is a graduate of Hollins University and Virginia Commonwealth University. A native of the DC metro area, Amanda worked in public relations for the American Red Cross before joining the Virginia Community College System as the Workforce Communications Coordinator.

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