ANNANDALE—Governor Ralph Northam has announced his proposed budget will include $145 million over the biennium to make tuition-free community college available to low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields. The Governor’s “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” initiative, or “G3” program, will provide financial support to cover tuition, fees, and books for eligible students at the Commonwealth’s two-year public institutions.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to get a good education and a good job, no matter who you are or how much money you have,” said Governor Northam. “This is an investment in equity and our economy—by helping Virginians get the skills they need, we’re building a world-class workforce while ensuring all Virginians can support themselves, their families, and their communities.”
“This is really exciting for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said John Rainone, President of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. “According to data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, almost 78 percent of Virginians have family income below $50,000, and this is lower in the rural communities. I hope that local families, employers, and our legislators support this proposal as it makes its way to the General Assembly in January.”
"We are delighted with this incredible opportunity for students in our service area,” says Rachael Thompson, Executive Director of the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College Educational Foundation. “The G3 program would allow the DSLCC Educational Foundation to maximize our existing scholarship dollars, ultimately providing more students with tuition assistance."
The G3 program is one of the first in the nation to provide wraparound financial assistance to help students at the lowest income levels with expenses such as food, transportation, and childcare. Students who qualify for full Federal Pell Grants and enroll full-time will receive a Student Support Incentive Grant on a semester basis. These grants will be in an amount up to $1,000 per semester and up to $500 per summer term. Each participating institution will receive a Performance Payment per eligible student receiving a Student Support Incentive Grant that successfully completes 30 credit hours and an additional Performance Payment when such a student earns an associate degree.
The initiative will target key industries, from health care and information technology to skilled trades, public safety, and early childhood education. Data show that on average, participants in these high-demand degree programs increase their wages by 60 percent upon program completion and double their individual state tax contributions.
“With Virginia’s record low unemployment rate, businesses are hungry for skilled talent,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “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.”
To remain eligible for the G3 program, students will be required to sign a Community Engagement Agreement and complete two hours of work experience, community service, or public service for every credit hour enrolled.
“With rising tuition costs, many Virginians are opting out of higher education,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “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.”
Governor Northam participated in a statewide workforce development tour in August and September where he spoke to more than 1,000 business and community leaders in every region of Virginia. The Governor heard directly from businesses who struggle to find the talent they need, especially in “new collar,” or middle-skill jobs.
To prepare for the G3 program, last year Governor Northam announced a collaborative effort to transform workforce programs offered through the Virginia Community College System. This model will equip students with skills training on day one and provide continual pathways for working adults to obtain additional credentials throughout their career.
“This large investment will help tens of thousands of Virginians earn the skills needed to fully participate in our 21st century economy,” said Glenn Dubois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “With the redesign of our workforce programs, we are ready to make sure all Virginians can get the right skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”