West Virginia University at Parkersburg, a state-supported, fully accredited community college, opened on Parkersburg’s north side in 1961. The college was founded through the efforts of the Parkersburg Sentinel, the Wood County Board of Education, Parkersburg civic and business leaders, some West Virginia University administrators, and key leaders of state government. Their goal was to provide easier access to public higher education for local students. At its founding it was the only West Virginia public college on the Ohio River between Huntington and Wheeling.
In 1963, the college became the first of a series of Appalachian Centers established by WVU President Paul A. Miller. In 1971, it was separated from WVU by the Board of Regents and converted into the state’s first community college. In 1989, it was re-affiliated with WVU. In 2008 it became an independent member of the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia. It continues to offer some baccalaureate degree programs in addition to associate degree and certificate programs. Though separated from West Virginia University, it retains “WVU” in its title through a special agreement.
The college awarded its first associate degrees in May 1967, its first bachelor of science degrees in business administration in 1992, and its first bachelor of science degrees in elementary education in 1993. Only about 100 students were enrolled at its opening in September 1961, but the institution’s enrollment grew to 5,149 full- and part-time students during the fall of 1974 before declining to about 3,800 in 2005. Some of the students are enrolled at the college’s Jackson County Center, which opened in Ripley in 1973–74. The Fall 2009 headcount enrollment was 4,231.
The WVU-Parkersburg main campus is situated a few miles east of Parkersburg on State Route 47 near Interstate 77, having moved there in 1969 after Wood County voters overwhelmingly approved a bond levy for construction of a modern facility. Previously the college had been located at an old elementary school on Emerson Avenue in Parkersburg. Additions were made to the new structure in 1974 and 1989. The Caperton Center for Applied Technology was dedicated in 1999.
This Article was written by Bernard L. Allen
Last Revised on October 08, 2010
Allen, Bernard L. Four Diamonds in the Rough-West Virginia University at Parkersburg. Parkersburg: WVU at Parkersburg, 2000.