The University of Virginia’s College at Wise just saw its recruitment territory expand by several states as Virginia lawmakers approved legislation to let the small college offer reduced tuition to all students from the Appalachian region.

The Virginia General Assembly approved the legislation and Gov. Ralph Northam signed the measure and it became law on Wednesday, March 6. The law applies to students who live within the Appalachian Regional Commission territory, which stretches from rural New York to Mississippi.

The law is seen as one way for the liberal arts college, a division of the University of Virginia, to counter the same enrollment drop that is affecting most higher education institutions across the nation.

“The ability to offer reduced tuition throughout the Appalachian Regional Commission will open new opportunities for students from all parts of Appalachia and will allow us to substantially expand our recruiting efforts,” Chancellor Donna P. Henry said. “It is a game changer for UVa-Wise.”

UVa-Wise is located geographically closer to seven other state capitals than Richmond. It is located about 14 miles from Kentucky and about 50 miles from Tennessee. It is often quicker to drive to Atlanta than Charlottesville. The ability to recruit from neighboring states could help UVa-Wise, and the students who live in adjacent states would have more access to a quality education at reduced tuition.

“UVa-Wise has strong academic programs and successful graduates, and we are eager to share that success with students from New York to Mississippi,” Henry said. “Our College has a strong story to tell and our recruiters are eager to spread the word about UVa-Wise.”

UVa-Wise recruiters plan to initially target students who live in communities that are about a three-hour radius from campus. Those students already know about the college and are familiar with its offerings. It’s potentially going to have a huge increase for athletic recruiting as well. A marketing and branding campaign that is underway for UVa-Wise will also include penetrating the ARC region soon.

“I want to offer my deep appreciation to Delegate Terry Kilgore and Senators Bill Carrico and Ben Chafin for championing the bill in the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate,” Henry added. “I am also thankful for the support the legislation received from our regional legislative delegation and I am grateful to all the Virginia lawmakers who overwhelmingly supported the measure.”

The ARC covers 420 counties in 13 states. The federal ARC invests in economic and education in those parts of the 13 states.