A recent article in the Charleston Daily Mail (“Online university skews W.Va. enrollment figures,
August 1, 2012) downplayed the reliability of Department of Education statistics on enrollment growth at American Public University System. The paper noted that “the figures also could give the false impression that APUS is having a large economic impact on the Charles Town community,” since APUS’s 119,000+ students worldwide study online versus attending a traditional campus. We believe that some more thorough research would have led the reporter to a wholly different conclusion.
Since establishing its headquarters in Charles Town a decade ago, APUS has renovated 17 downtown homes and structures into modern buildings with updated HVAC, electrical and computer wiring, plumbing, sprinklers, etc. We own 12 of these buildings and lease the balance. Later this year, we will open our new $18 million Financial Center on the site of the former Dixie-Narco manufacturing plant. Adjacent to our less than two-year-old, $12 million Academic Center, it will bring our total number of local properties to 19.
Additionally, we have taken care to ensure that our renovated and newly-constructed buildings maintain the historical character of the other buildings and homes in the downtown area, while avoiding occupying vacant retail space on Washington Street. We believe that our brownfields reclamations and opening of the state’s largest solar array installation clearly demonstrate our corporate citizenship commitment to both residents and business owners in the greater Charles Town and Ranson communities.
As an institution that is not subsidized by the state, APUS pays considerable real estate and income taxes in West Virginia and to the U.S. government, and City Manager Joe Cosentini recently acknowledged this commitment, saying that we have “greatly improved the city’s property tax base.” It should also be noted that our 570+ full-time local employees not only patronize local merchants, but also give freely of their time as mentors to at-risk children, participate in area fundraisers, conduct school supply drives, coach local little league teams, and participate in other community service activities and organizations.
Since 2007, APUS has donated more than $500,000 to charitable organizations. Locally, we provide funding and technology support to local schools, and fund scholarships for Charles Town area students. During that same period, we have donated $120,000 and countless hours of staff volunteer time to the Education Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving educational accessibility and quality for West Virginia students.
We would welcome the Daily Mail reporter to visit our Charles Town offices, meet with our employees and speak with local officials and merchants. He’ll likely find there is more to APUS than meets the eye. While we may offer learning at a distance to our students, our feet are clearly on the ground in Charles Town and Ranson.
—Wallace E. Boston, Ed.D., is the president and CEO at American Public University System