Rapid growth prompts $2.6 million expansion for Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center

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ABINGDON, VA (WJHL)- A growing number of colleges and universities are bringing programs to Southwest Virginia. It’s causing one major education hub in Abingdon to burst at the seams.

“We’re out of space. Business is good, enrollments is up, [we have] new programs, so we needed space desperately,” said David Matlock, executive director of the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center.

Current construction work at the back of the Center marks the beginning of a $2.6 million dollar expansion for the rapidly-growing learning institution.

“This is going to be a great resource for our community,” Matlock said.

The construction will create classrooms, offices, storage space, and an expanded testing center. Nearly 8,000 square feet is being added to the back of the Center. Funding for the multi-million dollar project was allocated by the Virginia State Legislature.

The Center sits on the campus of Virginia Highlands Community College, but nearly a dozen other learning institutions have brought classes to the building in recent years. They include ETSU, King University, Virginia Tech, UVa-Wise, among others.

Executive Director David Matlock shows an overview of the two-floor plan

“Our Virginia-based schools are also seeing enrollment increases, so [it means] a lot more traffic in the building,” said Adam Tolbert, senior director of administration. “And of course, as there’s more people using the facility, that necessitates more of a need for places to meet, hold classes.”

Matlock said the building holds classes for 2,700 students annually, but 65,000 people come through the doors for conferences each year. 

“The build is also going to give us a very-needed freight elevator,” said Matlock. “Right now we have one elevator, and that has to be shared with the caterers, customers, painters, electricians.”

The addition is expected to be completed by May or June of 2020.

“I’d say the first week we open, it’s going to be full and heavily-utilized based on our current trends of use here,” said Tolbert.

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