At 75, a West Virginia university turns increasingly to online learning

During the Great Depression era, the condition of the West Virginia economy and its mountainous terrain with inadequate roads made attending college an overwhelming burden for southern West Virginia high school graduates.

During that time, fewer than 10 percent of high school graduates in the area were attending college. The Beckley community had a great desire to offer a quality and affordable education to its youth at the height of the Great Depression. The answer was Beckley College.

The private, nonprofit institution began as a junior college and opened with 97 students and classrooms rented from a local church.

During the first half-century, the college experienced slow growth, but had steady increases in enrollment, staff, facilities and programs.

“They didn’t have the ability at that time to grow like we have over the past several years,” Mountain State University President Charles Polk said. “Considering the time period, they did extremely well with the college.”

In 1990, five presidents and 57 years later, Polk took on the challenges of leading the college into a new and exciting era.

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