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File photo/The Herald-Dispatch Marshall University's Old Main is shown in this 2012 file photo.

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University is aiming for the sky in its attempt to attract new students with a new degree program.

The Marshall University Board of Governors on Friday approved an "intent to plan" two new baccalaureate degrees in aviation sciences that will produce commercial pilots for airplanes and helicopters. The programs will be under a new School of Aviation, which will report to the associate vice president for outreach.

Marshall is partnering with Southern Utah University and Yeager Airport to create the aviation school. Since Southern Utah's flight school is already accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration, the partnership means students can graduate sooner. SUU is also assuming financial responsibility for the helicopter, or rotor-wing, program.

"There is a huge demand for pilots across the United States," Marshall President Jerome Gilbert said. "As an industry, a commercial pilot is the only profession with a federally mandated retirement age. Marshall is poised to meet the educational requirements with these new programs."

The courses will be taught at Marshall's South Charleston campus, where the university plans to build a new residential hall, and at Yeager Airport, where a hangar will be built to house Marshall's fleet, along with a flight simulator and other classrooms.

The university plans to purchase SR22 Cirrus Aircraft, a preferred model for flight schools for its avionics, safety features and resale value. It is the only manufacturer to include a parachute that the pilot can deploy in an emergency, preventing crash landings.

The university will purchase two $500,000 planes to start, with plans to purchase up to seven planes by 2023. The School of Aviation must repay the university for the aircraft, as well as other capital costs, through tuition revenue.

The school's first-year income is anticipated to be $771,000 but $4.8 million by the fifth year with a positive cumulative balance by the seventh year.

The university is currently working toward a fall 2021 start date for the first class.

The board also approved three other intents to plan: Master of Science in data analytics, Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and combined Bachelor of Business Administration.

The master's in data analytics will provide students with technical expertise in computational modeling, data collection and integration, data storage and retrieval, data processing, modeling and analytics, and visualization.

The new business administration degree will combine six separate degree programs (management, finance, international business, economics, information systems and marketing) into a single degree program with nine majors.

The proposal for that program says the benefits will be a clearer set of requirements for students, more efficient managing of curriculum issues, better assessment of the business core, better assurance of learning and more efficient administration of the programs.

The bachelor in civil engineering will replace the emphasis in civil engineering, which College of Information Technology and Engineering Dean Wael Zatar said confused students and out-of-area employers.

In other business, the board also continued its review of the board policies, approving 24 policies.

Many of those were technical changes, but the university did update its vaccination policy to remove the religious exemption to be more in line with state law. The policy does exempt online-only students not living on campus from the measles and rubella vaccination requirement.

The athletic department also updated its policy to add "sexual orientation" to its anti-discrimination policy.

Following an executive session, the board approved the acquisition of two real estate parcels for a combined cost of $10,000. More information on the purchase will be available once the transaction is completed.

Gilbert and the board also recognized outgoing members Phyllis Arnold, Cam Brammer, Hunter Barclay, David Haden and Wyatt Scaggs for their service.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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