Founded in 1895 as the Bluefield Colored Institute, Bluefield State College is a federally-recognized historically black college (HBCU) in Bluefield, WV, a rural town on the WV/VA border. The school was originally a high school with early college courses, intended to prepare the African-American youth for service and leadership in their community (a region that is still more than a quarter black). The institute became a normal school in 1906, educating black schoolteachers for West Virginia’s segregated schools in real classrooms of Institute students, and Bluefield State College became a guiding light for West Virginia’s black people. During the Harlem Renaissance, Bluefield became a destination for the artists, writers, and musicians of the era. Today, U.S. News & World Report ranks Bluefield State College in the top 50 regional colleges in the South, and top 10 public regional colleges.
Academic ProgramsWhile Bluefield State’s history lies in teacher education, its current mission is directed toward the needs of nontraditional-aged commuting students, working to meet the job market and career demands of a region in transition. While the region around Bluefield State is traditionally coal country, changes in the economy in the 21st century has forced many adults in the region to return to school to earn degrees, increase their credentials, and make the changes needed to enter new careers in industry and service. That population has become Bluefield State’s primary student body, and the college has worked to increase their career-ready programs immensely.
In response to demographic and economic shifts, the most popular and productive programs at Bluefield State are in career and professional fields. The School of Engineering Technology & Computer Science has become a leader in the region, while the Cole School of Business is West Virginia’s only nationally-accredited business school. Bluefield State’s heritage as a normal school and teacher’s college remains in the School of Education, while Nursing & Allied Health have emerged as key players in West Virginia’s healthcare system.
Student LifeWhile Bluefield State is still recognized as a historically black college, due to its major contributions to African-American history and culture, today Bluefield State’s student body is more than 80% white. Demographic shifts in the southern part of West Virginia – still coal country to this day – have turned Bluefield State into a majority-white commuter campus, with an average age of 27 and few traditional-aged students. While there are no residence halls, Bluefield State does offer a number of student organizations and extracurricular activities, such as intramural sports.
The Bluefield State Big Blues compete in the NCAA Division II Eastern College Athletic Conference. Bluefield State was previously a member of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, before that organization broke up in 2013; like some of the other former WVIAC, Bluefield State was briefly independent before being recruited to a new conference. Students take part in several varsity sports, including basketball, tennis, and cross-country.