RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As more adults return to school in the midst of the recession, community colleges have seen an unprecedented enrollment spike.
And that means budgets are stretched. President Barack Obama says this new law is a step in making sure community colleges are no longer an afterthought.
"The good news with the bill that the president is signing today is that is expands pell grants options, it's expands financial aid options for students," said Jeff Kraus, spokesperson for Virginia's Community Colleges.
On top of that, community colleges will get $2 billion for developing or improving career training programs over the next four years.
It's something colleges are already doing, but look forward to doing more.
"When we look at the type of jobs in Virginia that are in demand, we look at truck driving, we look at nursing, we look at welding, we look at HVAC, all of these are professions that you can come to community college for and get a credential and get out the door and get a job," Kraus said.
The idea here is simple: Help communities gain a workforce, which will boost the economy and ultimately allow more people access to healthcare at their jobs.
Community colleges will play a vital role in that as they are often the career pathways for millions of unemployed people and working families.
"We know high school is no longer the finish line, a high school degree is no longer enough to be independent and live the type of life, the middle class life that a lot of people want to live, you have to have higher ed in order to have success in this economy," Kraus said.
Leaders at Virginia's Community Colleges say even though this new legislation will help, more needs to be done if the President and governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia want to see huge numbers of college graduates.
"We are not going to get there without community colleges when you consider that 2/3 of students in Virginia attend a community college," Kraus said.
The legislation will also increase support for historically black colleges.