Northam pitches $145M free community college program
Low- and middle-income students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields would be eligible.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed budget will include $145 million to make community college tuition free for low- and middle-income students pursuing degrees in high-demand career fields, Northam announced Thursday.
The Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back (G3) initiative will provide financial support to cover tuition, fees and books for eligible students at two-year public institutions in Virginia.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to get a good education and a good job, no matter who you are or how much money you have,” Northam said in a statement. “This is an investment in equity and our economy.”
Targeted key industries for the program include health care, information technology, skilled trades, public safety and early childhood education — so-called “new collar” jobs for which business and community leaders are struggling to find skilled talent.
“With Virginia’s record low unemployment rate, businesses are hungry for skilled talent,” Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy said in a statement. “The G3 program will help Virginia businesses of all sizes fill open jobs, connect Virginians with the necessary training and credentials to find good-paying work and grow the commonwealth’s economy.”
Students who qualify for full federal Pell Grants and enroll full time will receive a Student Support Incentive Grant on a semester basis, supplying up to $1,000 per semester, and up to $500 per summer term. Students must complete two hours of work experience, community service or public service to remain eligible for the program.
Participating community colleges will receive a performance payment per student receiving a Student Support Incentive Grant who successfully completes 30 credit hours. Once a student earns an associate degree, the institution will receive an additional Performance Payment.
“With rising tuition costs, many Virginians are opting out of higher education,” state Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said in a statement. “The G3 program provides affordable, accessible workforce pathways that will prepare the commonwealth’s students for the growing number of high-need jobs that do not require a four-year degree.”