The Rapp Center for Education in Sperryville, formerly RappU, has been granted a long-awaited state certificate to operate as a vocational postsecondary institution.

The approval allows the RCE to offer programs of study leading to a certificate or diploma in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“We are approved as a non-degree vocational post-secondary school,” RCE founder Doug Schiffman explained to the News on Monday. “In other words, we're not a college.”

Schiffman added that RCE was required to post a surety bond of $10,000 “as a guarantee that student tuition is protected should the school go out of business.”

“Most importantly, we are required to act like a school, with adequate procedures and record-keeping in place that will pass muster when we get audited in 18 months,” said the founder.

The granting of the certificate officially means that RCE is now able to offer the following classes (and other courses in the future, so long as the Rappahannock-based institution informs and receive approval from SCHEV, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia):

— Phlebotomy Tech

— EKG Tech

— Clinical Medical Assistant

— Electronic Health Records

— Medical Billing and Coding

— Limited Radiologic Tech

— Fundamentals of Information Technology

“We are particularly excited about this one and the career pathways it offers,” Schiffman said of the latter course Fundamentals of Information Technology.

SCHEV approval was not required for RCE to teach the popular Nurse Aide and Medication Aide classes, as they are regulated by the Board of Nursing.

Last July, SCHEV ruled that the former RappU, which began several years ago as a workforce training and lifelong learning center, must change its name. Not doing so would mean RappU could not expand its program offerings, as Schiffman proposed.

“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 told this newspaper. “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.”

Entering its fourth year, RCE was unique in that it didn’t award credits or degrees, but did offer, beyond its original learning programs, workforce courses that lead to certification. Wherein was the problem.

The name RappU, SCHEV determined, was 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,” observed 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 continued. “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 was the name change. Thus, RappU officially became the Rapp Center for Education.

It was the success of RCE’s workforce training center that drew SCHEV’s attention in the first place, through its two traditional courses Nurse Aide and Medication Tech, which have not only proven popular with Rappahannock residents but also area nursing homes and hospitals that have welcomed aboard RCE’s certified students.

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