Marshall University and Mountwest Community & Technical College, in cooperation with the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI), have signed an agreement to offer a joint Associate in Applied Sciences (A.A.S.) degree for the education of aviation maintenance technicians.
The cross-institutional degree, believed to be the first of its kind in West Virginia, has been discussed for several months and was finalized Thursday by Marshall President Dr. Jerome A. Gilbert and Mountwest President Dr. Keith J. Cotroneo.
Marshall, Mountwest and RCBI have been working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop an FAA airframe and powerplant maintenance program in Huntington. Pending final approval by the FAA, this collaboration will allow students to earn the joint degree in addition to their FAA certifications in airframe and powerplant maintenance.
The concept for the degree program has been approved by the institutions’ accrediting bodies, including the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
Gilbert, in a message to the Marshall Board of Governors, said the degree is a true symbol of collaboration.
"The creation of this associate degree, between a four-year institution and a two-year institution, will serve as a model for collaboration across the country," Gilbert said. "I want to thank President Cotroneo for his vision and I applaud his willingness to work with us in creating this historic degree."
In signing the agreement, Cotroneo described the program as a catalyst for future economic development.
"We anticipate that our joint effort to establish an aviation maintenance degree program at the Huntington Tri-State Airport will provide a substantial economic boost to the region," Cotroneo said. "We greatly appreciate President Gilbert’s leadership in proposing this degree program and look forward to a very productive partnership."
Gilbert said the two-year program will have the capacity to enroll up to 75 students the first year.
"As we have witnessed our economy change over the past few years, I believe this program has the opportunity to attract new aviation industry to the state," Gilbert said. "In addition, we believe that West Virginians who may be unemployed, underemployed or have had to leave the state to find work may now have a reason to return for training and possible new employment."
The associate degree in aviation maintenance is just one of Marshall’s newest programs in aviation. A four-year degree, educating and training pilots for fixed-wing aircraft is moving forward in cooperation with Yeager Airport in Charleston.