Tuition-free program for eligible community college students becomes law
"Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back" provides grants for low- and middle-income students
Legislation creating a tuition-free community college program in Virginia became law Monday, as Gov. Ralph Northam held a bill signing ceremony at Northern Virginia Community College for the “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” program, one of his signature initiatives.
Known as G3, the program provides funding for tuition, fees and books and other expenses for eligible low- and middle-income students who are pursuing degrees in high-demand fields, including health care, information technology and computer science, manufacturing and skilled trades, public safety and early childhood education. It is funded via a $36 million state budget allocation.
Northam signed identical House of Delegates and state Senate bills Monday at the ceremony at NOVA’s Alexandria campus.
First pitched in 2019 as a $145 million budget item, G3 was one of numerous programs frozen last year during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn.
G3 recipients must have a total household income that does not exceed 400% of the federal poverty line and must have applied for other federal or state financial aid programs for which they are eligible. The G3 program makes up the difference between what federal or state financial aid pays for tuition, fees, and books.
Eligible low-income students who qualify for full federal Pell grants and are enrolled full time also can receive student support grants of up to $900 per semester and $450 during the summer term to assist with expenses such as food, transportation and child care.
Participating institutions will receive a performance payment for each G3 student who completes 30 credit hours and an additional performance payment for each student who receives an associate degree.
“Building an equitable and inclusive economy is more important than ever as we emerge from this pandemic,” Northam said in a statement. “The G3 program will connect thousands of Virginians with the skills, training and resources they need to secure jobs in high-demand fields and support themselves and their families — all without being forced to shoulder mountains of student debt. Tuition-free community college was one of the key issues I ran on during my campaign for governor, and I am thrilled to be delivering on that promise.”
In a statement, NOVA President Anne M. Kress said, “For NOVA, G3 puts a college degree that leads to a meaningful career within reach of the full diversity of the commonwealth. An investment in community college students is an investment in Virginia, one that will help families find economic security while helping the state achieve economic growth.”
According to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), associate’s degree graduates in 2018-19 pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Virginia had a median debt of $12,000 at graduation, and those graduating with occupational or technical associate’s degrees that year had a median debt of $15,863 .