Bluefield State College is one step closer to establishing itself as a university thanks to its ability to now offer its first Master’s Degree program! Get the full story from Bluefield Daily Telegraph below.

Credit: Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Bluefield State College continues to achieve milestones, and a major one has now been reached.

Starting with the spring semester, the college will offer its first ever master’s degree program, setting the stage for eventual university status.

The Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) on Friday approved the college’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

“Today’s decision by the Commission empowers Bluefield State College to launch the first graduate degree program in the College’s 126-year history,” said BSC President Robin Capehart. “By offering a graduate program, Bluefield State can now begin the process for pursuing university status.”

The master’s degree program will be interactive with a “hybrid” format of online courses and seat time.

“Building on Bluefield State College’s fully accredited undergraduate programs in the W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business, we are excited to expand into graduate education by offering a Master of Business Administration this spring to meet the educational needs of this region,” Dr. Ted Lewis, BSC Provost, said. “By offering this program in a hybrid format, students will gain valuable seat time and opportunities for in-person interaction, engagement, and experiential learning as well as the ability to meet face to face with business leaders.”

The MBA program is designed for both business and non-business majors, and will be offered in an accelerated format with courses offered primarily through online delivery. Students can complete the 36-credit hour program in as little as 12 months.

“Bluefield State College is gratified and excited to announce we will be offering the MBA program through the W. Paul Cole, Jr. School of Business,” said Karen Grogan, the school’s Interim Dean. “The Master of Business Administration program will be offered, beginning in the Spring 2022 Semester.”

The program will bring an “affordable and accessible” graduate business education for residents of the region and beyond.

Southern West Virginia employers surveyed by the Cole School of Business “expressed strong support for the program,” the college said in the announcement. “They saw the BSC MBA as a valuable way to help current employees strengthen their skills and business acumen, and facilitate the recruitment of new employees seeking to further their education while continuing to work.”

From here, the college will now seek program-specific accreditation of the MBA program as soon as possible. The Cole School of Business undergraduate business program is already nationally accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

Capehart took over the college in early 2019 and one of his goals was to eventually achieve university status, a goal he previously accomplished as president of West Liberty University.

“Becoming a university would give us a higher aspirational level,” he said earlier this year after being formally inaugurated as the college’s new president, which had been delayed because of the pandemic. “Universities have a large reach in terms of attracting students. Becoming a university also attracts more international students.”

The path to achieve that, he said, is offering graduate programs.

“We have three graduate programs pending,” he said then of the process that includes a review by the Higher Education Policy Commission.

Now, one of those pending programs has been officially approved.

Another major goal of Capehart was to offer on-campus housing and that has also been accomplished.

BSC purchased the former Bluefield Regional Medical Center and transformed much of it (the emergency department remains) into a residence hall and classrooms, and that made the facility part of the BSC campus.

This summer, about 175 students started moving in to the former rooms for patients that had been renovated for students.

The first “quad” of the planned four units at Heritage Village behind the student center is scheduled to be finished by August 2022 and will house 30 students.

Enrollment is also strong.

“This semester, we welcomed a freshman class of nearly 600 students, 45 percent of our total enrollment,” Capehart said recently, “and nearly one-third of our freshman class are African-Americans. Overall, our minority and African-American student enrollment has risen from 3 percent three years ago to nearly 22 percent today.”

The BSC student body includes students from 33 different states and 15 foreign countries.

Prior to Capehart’s January 2019 arrival, Bluefield State had experienced a 40 percent decline in enrollment over the previous eight years. By the fall of 2020, BSC halted its enrollment slide and registered a 1 percent enrollment increase, one of only three colleges in West Virginia to show enrollment growth.