Expanding workforce training & learning center to become Rapp Center for Education
RappU founder Doug Schiffman knew this day would eventually come, so he’s not the least bit surprised — nor upset — that the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) says Rappahannock County’s unique workforce training and lifelong learning center must change its name.
Not doing so, for that matter, would mean RappU could not expand its program offerings, as Schiffman now proposes to do.
“Last year it came to my attention that as we expanded the courses we were offering that we were getting into areas that were regulated by SCHEV,” Schiffman explains in an interview. “The state approves you to be an institution of higher education — either a public institution or a non-degree granting institution, which is what we are.”
Wrapping up its third year as a Sperryville-based educational center, RappU is unique in that it doesn’t award credits or degrees, but it does offer, beyond its original learning programs, workforce courses that lead to certification. Wherein lies the problem.
The name RappU, SCHEV has determined, is too closely aligned to a university.
“The State of Virginia, by law or regulation, can regulate the use of the word ‘university’ or the word ‘college,’ or any variations or abbreviations thereof,” observes Schiffman. “With good reason, honestly. Without mentioning any other names, there were certain people who operated [so-called] universities that got in trouble because they weren’t really universities.
“We pleaded our [RappU name] case with SCHEV,” the founder continues. “We said we’re a rural area, we have a wonderful relationship with Lord Fairfax [Community College], the nearest four-year university is an hour and 45 minutes away, nobody here confuses [RappU] with a university. And they said thanks, but no thanks. And I get it. It’s one of those things if we let you do it then we have to let everybody. . . . So if we want to get to the next step [of expansion] we have to take the next step.”
One of the first steps is a name change. Thus, RappU in coming weeks will officially become the Rapp Center for Education.
It’s been the success of RappU as a workforce training center that drew SCHEV’s attention in the first place, through its two traditional courses Nurse Aide and Medication Tech that have proven quite popular with not only Rappahannock residents, but area nursing homes and hospitals that have welcomed aboard RappU’s certified students.
“These two [courses] are regulated through the [Virginia] Board of Nursing. So they are our regulator, they inspect, they approve. We can’t operate unless they say we can operate,” says Schiffman. “So what [SCHEV] says is if you are offering classes and collecting tuition you need to be approved by us to do that.
“From the perspective of a student it makes sense, because as you know you have all these different organizations or institutions that shut down, leaving a student in the lurch for their tuition. And while many of our students don’t pay tuition because they can’t afford to, we provide them the class because generous donors have given us funds to cover tuition.”
So the soon-to-be Rapp Center for Education has begun the lengthy process of getting SCHEV’s approval, not only to continue operating but also to “expand” its program offerings.
“It’s a three-part process,” says the founder. “And it is not inexpensive. We had to hire a consultant to walk us through the process. And I won’t tell you how much it was, but it was a lot of money. And my generous friends at the PATH foundation agreed to cover the cost of the consultant. The application process itself is $3,000 to the state.
“Fortunately, we don’t need to change our corporate entity,” he notes, which will save time, effort and money. Still, the RappU founder has a two-page list of everything that will need to be changed in light of the new name.
Schiffman says he’s looking forward to what the future has in store for the center’s expanded education offerings, from workforce training to the original lifelong learning classes so popular when RappU was founded in 2015.
Current and newly proposed certificate offerings include IT Fundamentals (a pathway into the cybersecurity field), Nurse Aide, Medication Technician, Clinical Medical Assistant, Phlebotomy Technician, EKG Technician, Electronic Health Records Technician, Medical Billing and Coding, Virginia Limited Radiography Technician (“This would be our first online course,” says the RappU founder), and Pharmacy Technician.
Whether it’s EKG, X-ray or pharmacy tech, “the jobs are out there,” insists Schiffman. “It’s always been my wish that along with the other things we could get a pharmacy in this county, but if not, our students will be hired all over.”
In the coming weeks, RappU will be updating its website with the new name, plus make separate announcements through the news media and other outlets. The logo behind the name will remain the same.