Mercer Street is a growth area for Princeton, a location where small businesses and local entrepreneurs are able to thrive and prosper. That sense of downtown pride was on full display during the Celebrate Princeton festival this past weekend, a gathering that once again attracted thousands despite dreary weather outside.

Unfortunately, the downtown area was hit with some troubling news last week. Valley College confirmed it was closing its Mercer Street campus this November. But the news isn’t as bad as it sounds. That’s because Valley College will maintain an office on Mercer Street for online student registrations.

Princeton City Clerk Ken Clay said officials had just learned of the school’s decision last week. The campus is located on Mercer Street and is considered a key part of the downtown business community.

 “We will miss their presence on Mercer Street,” Clay told the Daily Telegraph. “They were proposing some good programs. They will be missed, that is definite.”

Beth Gardner, vice president of Valley College, which also has campuses in Beckley and Martinsburg, said one of the three buildings the college rents in Princeton will remain open but only for enrollment in online courses. The buildings at 609 Mercer Street and 616 Harrison Street will no longer be leased, she said, but the 617 Mercer Street address will be kept open.

“There will be no ground programs,” Gardner said, but a current on-campus course, medical clinical assistant (MCA), will be completed and end Nov. 1. “All of the students in the MCA program will get to finish.”

The reason the Mercer Street campus is closing is a familiar problem. 

More Valley College students are taking classes online, as opposed to attending an actual brick and  mortar campus. Gardner says it’s simply a matter of market demand and many students in the area prefer online courses.

“It may be because of transportation, babysitting or working another job,” she said, but the demand is more for the online programs.

“Most of our Princeton area students choose to attend our Valley College Online division, administered from our Martinsburg, West Virginia location, which continues to offer a robust selection of online courses,” the college added in a statement posed on its website.

We hate to see the closure of the Valley College campus. But we are glad to see that the college is retaining a brick and mortar presence on Mercer Street.

City officials also will have plenty of time between now and November to help with marketing the two sites that will be closing on Mercer Street and Harrison Street. So with hope a new tenant can be found for these buildings in a timely manner.