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Virginia Community College Students Get Tuition-Free Boost

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Virginia's new G3 program lets eligible low-income students who qualify for Pell Grants receive support grants to boost their job skills. (Adobe Stock)
Virginia's new G3 program lets eligible low-income students who qualify for Pell Grants receive support grants to boost their job skills. (Adobe Stock)
 By Diane Bernard - Producer, Contact
April 15, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- With college enrollment falling during the pandemic, a new, little-known law in Virginia could bring community college students back to the classroom.

It's a tuition-free program to help folks earn certifications for jobs.

Known as G3, for "Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back," the program lets students earn credit toward an associate degree while working in high-demand fields, including information technology, cybersecurity, nursing, child care, and construction.

Dr. Janet Gullickson, president of Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, said the $145 million program is ideal for thousands of community college students, whom she said tend to take a little longer to get through school.

"Our students often work 50 or more hours a week," Gullickson explained. "They're parents or caregivers for others. So, this is very flexible for students, and it also allows students to go at their own pace."

G3 begins July 1 and Gullickson describes it as a "last-dollar grant," which provides tuition, books, fees and other expenses for eligible students. Check with your local community college for more information.

Gullickson pointed out G3 isn't only for lower-income students. A family of four with a yearly income of $100,000 could qualify. She added her school is preparing for an influx of students by expanding its online offerings and adding extra advisers.

"We don't want students to waste their time taking courses that don't matter to them, or don't count towards their goals," Gullickson commented. "And so, the legislation did allow us a little money to hire people who can help our students plan the best path for them."

Enrollment in Virginia's community college system dropped from more than 158,000 students in the fall of 2019 to a little over 153,000 last year.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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