“It’s the best kept secret in Northern Virginia.”
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard this statement made regarding Northern Virginia Community College. NOVA, as it is affectionally called, has been a mainstay educational institution in our region since its founding in a warehouse at Bailey’s Crossroads in 1964.
While much has changed at the college since that time, the “best kept secret” descriptor continues to be one that aptly describes the college for many in our area, even though
it provides the best post-secondary opportunity available in the region, whether for the college-bound high school senior or the adult student seeking further education and skill development to advance in their chosen field or move to another.
With more than 70,000 students currently being served, NOVA is also one of the largest institutions of higher learning in the country. The expanse of courses and degree offerings makes it the perfect place to complete those important first two years of college at a fraction of the cost of attending a four-year college or university.
NOVA also provides an all-important support system for students transitioning from their relatively secure high school environment to the larger and sometimes less personal world of higher education. In my experience as an educator, the community college option has proven extremely valuable for many students, particularly those who are still determining their career focus and direction.
NOVA has nurtured partnerships with Northern Virginia’s public school divisions to increase the number of dual enrollment offerings for students, where they can earn both high school and college credit by taking designated courses. Currently, the college is working closely with these same school divisions to expand the dual enrollment program into a larger, more encompassing Early College opportunity, which could ultimately offer students the prospect of completing their associate degree at the same time that they fulfill their high school graduation requirements.
While providing these amazing opportunities for high school students and graduates, NOVA also is a leader in workforce development and skill training. NOVA awards more information technology degrees than any other two-year college in the United States and was recently noted as producing the fifth highest paid cybersecurity talent of any college or university in the country.
Degree and certification opportunities are available in high demand fields from automotive technology to cloud computing, from medical sonography to information systems technology. Major national corporations in the area like Micron, Northrup Grumman and Amazon Web Services partner with NOVA to address industry needs in high-demand positions with students completing internships and stepping into these higher paying positions upon program completion. The ability of NOVA to quickly adapt to the changing needs of local corporations makes for the “perfect wave” of opportunity for the businesses, the college and, most importantly, the students. While there is no perfect answer to what is best for each student, the opportunities provided by Northern Virginia Community College, whether for the soon-to-be high school graduate or the out-of-school adult seeking to improve their employment picture, deserve strong consideration.
NOVA’s success over the past 50 plus years speaks to the value and importance of the college for our region and beyond. Having such a leader in the field of education in our own back yard is something of which we should all be proud. And while sometimes we do not want to share our good fortune, in this case it is important to let the rest of the world in on “the best kept secret in Northern Virginia.”
The writer is the former principal of T. C. Williams High School from 1984 to 2006. He currently serves as Alexandria’s representative to the Northern Virginia Community College Board.