Free community college coming for low-income Virginia residents in select fields

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Legislation to fund free community college for eligible Virginians who are seeking careers in high-demand fields was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday.

The Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back initiative, also abbreviated G3, will fully cover the costs of a two-year associates degree for middle- and low-income students getting degrees to work in certain industries, which include health care, early childhood education, information technology and computer science, public safety and manufacturing and skilled trade.

“Building an equitable and inclusive economy is more important than ever as we emerge from this pandemic,” said Northam. “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.”

Program funding will also help cover the costs of other expenses, such as food, transportation and child care. A full-time student who qualifies for a full Pell Grant will receive the support incentive grants on a semester basis. The grants can be up to $900 per fall and spring semesters and $450 per summer term.

The legislation will cost the commonwealth about $36 million annually to cover tuition and other costs.

“Many Virginians are struggling to secure good jobs and support their families despite the Commonwealth’s continuing recovery,” Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy said in a statement. “The G3 program is a powerful tool to address the skills gap we are seeing in key industries and help businesses find the right talent to fill job openings, expanding both our workforce and our economy.”

A students initial eligibility is determined through application submissions for federal and state financial aid.

“The Governor’s G3 initiative will make earning the necessary skills to fully participate in our 21st century economy affordable for more Virginians,” Glenn Dubois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, said in a statement. “Virginia’s 23 community colleges are ready to help students prepare for and succeed in the high-demand jobs of today and tomorrow.”

The legislation, House Bill 2204 and Senate Bill 1405, received broad bipartisan support.

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