Governor’s plan to boost access to community colleges would benefit people and businesses

Governor’s plan to boost access to community colleges would benefit people and businesses
Students at Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville train for health care certifications; one of the fields included in the governor’s G3 program proposal. (Source: Virginia Community College System)

State lawmakers have the opportunity in the next few weeks to approve a plan that could improve the lives of tens of thousands of our fellow Virginians.

When he laid out his agenda for the 2020 General Assembly, Gov. Ralph Northam offered a proposal he calls G3, “Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back.”

The G3 is beneficial to multiple constituencies. G3 promotes the cause of equity in our society by concretely helping more disadvantaged Virginians reach the middle class. It also would benefit Virginia employers who struggle to find skilled workers and it would strengthen Virginia’s tax base.

As submitted in the governor’s budget, G3 would boost funding to Virginia’s Community Colleges by $145 million over the next two budget years, and enable an estimated 39,000 low- and moderate-income Virginians to enroll without cost in carefully targeted community college programs.

Let’s be clear: G3 is not an open-door “free community college” plan. The eligible programs fall into five career areas that are in high demand in Virginia: health care, information technology, manufacturing and skilled trades, early childhood education and public safety.

Financial aid professionals call G3 a “last dollar” plan. To qualify, students enrolling in a specified certificate or degree program must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). G3 funds would make up the difference between what financial aid pays for and the cost of tuition, fees, and books for the program.

For some students — those who receive the maximum Pell award and who enroll full-time — G3 also would provide a student incentive grant of $1,000 per semester to help pay for college costs beyond tuition, fees and books, such as transportation and food and housing.

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