For the new breed of college student - the career professional who wants specialized courses, the housewife returning to school, the working mother who can only study at night - travelling 20 miles to a college can sometimes prove a hardship.
Arlington County has nearly 5,000 residents taking individual classes in Northern Virginia from four Virginia colleges and universities. Their averages age is between 25 and 30 years old and most work at least part time. Their interest in higher education has prompted a dialogue between county officials and school board members to bring a college campus into the county. The only college currently in Arlington is the private Marymount College of Virginia on North Globe Road.
Arlington County has been talking about improving higher education facilities there for at least four years, but various obstacles, including the lack of available space, have stopped the conversations practically before they started.
Now it appears that space will become available, as the Arlington County school board pinpoints a junior high school to close in 1978.
"We are watching the school closing process with great interest," said Dean Brundage, chief administrator of the Northern Virginia Consortium for Continuing Higher Education. "There as been no formal consideration of putting a college in whatever school is closed, but I certainly am interested in bringing educational opportunities closer to the people seeking them."
Four Virginia colleges and universities are represented in the consortium - George Mason Unversity, Northern Virginia Community College, the University of Virginia and Virginia Polytechnical Unversity. All four institutions offer classes in the Northern Virginia area, 108 of which are offered in Arlington scattered throughout the county in church halls, unoccupied classrooms and other community facilities.
"All of the Arlington classes are constantly oversubscribed," said Mary Marshall, Arlington delegate to the Virginia General Assembly. "you can't believe the number of complaints I get from working students who live to drive out to Fairfax to pick up a couple of classes."
Marshall and Arlington County Board Chairman Joseph Wholey recently told the school board that they support the idea of a closed junior high school becoming a mini-campus. Marshall specifically recommended Kenmore Junior High School at 200 South Carlin Spring Road for a campus setting because of its easy accems to public transportation and its barrier-free design, which would better serve the aged and handicapped.
"We're talking about a college that would serve the whole community. It would offer everything from enrichment courses like automobile repair to a PhD in economics," Marshall said. "The space in the school could be used on a lease or rental basis to give a central location for a varied college curriculum."
She added that she had "no hard and fast idea of which junior high school should be used for a college, but the attractive point about junior high schools in generals is that they offer science laboratories."
The school board has shown interest in the idea, but has not taken any action.
The next step to bring the issue of a college campus for Arlington from conversation to action would be for the school board to set up a committee to meet with representatives from the consortium or individual schools, Marshall said.
Marshall suggested that the consortium itself, rather than any individual college or university, set up the classes "to offer the variety of courses that the combined institutions would be able to provide."
Wholey added, however, that first refusal rights would probably go to George Mason or Northern Virginia Community College.
"The practicalities still have a long way to go before they're worked out, but there's certainly no lack of interest," Marshall said. "The school system's adult education program alone has thousands of adults attending classes."
The Arlington adult education program has about 15,000 participants, some of whom are earning high school credit during day classes, but most of whom attend enrichment courses at night. Between 5,000 and 6,000 Arlington residents, most of whom are adults, are registered in the schools' distributive education program, which teaches marketing and distribution skills.