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Students attend Marshall college fair

Oct. 04, 2012 @ 06:49 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University's Cam Henderson Center welcomed about 1,500 area high school students to meet with officials from Marshall and other higher education institutions at the annual College Fair.

The event, sponsored by the College Foundation of West Virginia and the Higher Education Policy Commission, allows high school juniors and seniors to meet with college recruiters, ask questions and gather materials about the institutions represented.

Emily Harden and Lauren Cheslick, both seniors at Cabell Midland High School, said they plan to stay in West Virginia but welcomed the opportunity to learn about other universities that have programs which interest them.

"It's neat knowing there are so many other programs if you want to go out of state," said Cheslick, who plans to attend Marshall for her bachelor's degree and then West Virginia University for dentistry.

Both also said staying in state was primarily a financial decision, though many recruiters were quick to point out a number of financial aid packages designed for out-of-state students. Ryan Astor, a regional recruiter for the University of Alabama, said students who qualify as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists or finalists receive a full tuition package.

Astor said Alabama was making its first visit to Marshall's college fair, explaining the university is seeking to extend its non-resident reach. He said the state is seeing trends all too familiar to West Virginia, with a smaller population of high school graduates.

Among the other nearly 50 schools represented were ITT Tech, Ashland Community and Technical College, University of Kentucky, Concord University, West Virginia Wesleyan and Huntington Junior College. There also were military recruiters and representatives from various colleges within Marshall.

Brian Sipe, the general manager of the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, volunteered to work a table for Elizabethtown College, of which he is a 2005 graduate. The small school near Hershey, Pa., has about 2,000 students and provides each with an opportunity for personal attention and an opportunity to get involved, he said.

"You can be a big fish in a little pond," Sipe said. "You can be involved in all the activities because there is no waiting list. You can really make a name for yourself in four years."

Beth Wolfe, the director of recruitment for Marshall, said it may seem odd to host a college fair, but she said it is about providing a service to the community and understanding not every student will attend Marshall.

"It gives us a chance to show local high school students some options," she said. "Sure, we want them to consider Marshall, but there are reasons they look elsewhere. We just want to stress the importance of higher education."

Wolfe also said there are a number of post-secondary options out there with which some students simply aren't familiar. Among them is Kentucky Christian University, which is 30 minutes west of Huntington in Grayson, Ky. The school is home to about 550 students and boasts an exceptional nursing program, according to recruitment manager Heather Stacy.

She said the school faces competition for Kentucky students, particularly with Morehead State. And many students come from churches the school is affiliated with. But Stacy said there are plenty of students in the region who desire a Christian-based education and don't realize how close KCU is.

"A lot of the schools the students are going to be familiar with," Wolfe added. "But there are some they maybe never heard of, and there may be a school that fills a need for that student."

High school students from Cabell, Wayne and Lincoln counties attended the fair, representing both public and private schools.

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