Tuition-Free Community College Will Prepare Students for High-Demand Fields

Governor Ralph Northam today signed legislation creating his signature “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” initiative, or “G3” program, which makes tuition-free community college available to low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields. The G3 program includes $36 million to cover tuition, fees, and books and provide wraparound support for eligible students at the Commonwealth’s two-year public institutions.

The tuition-free community college initiative targets key industries, including health care, information technology and computer science, manufacturing and skilled trades, public safety, and early childhood education. On average, students in these high-demand degree programs increase their wages by 60 percent upon program completion and double their individual state tax contributions.

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

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To prepare for the G3 program, Governor Northam announced a collaborative effort in 2018 to transform workforce programs offered through the Virginia Community College System. This model equips students with skills training on day one and provides continual pathways for working adults to obtain additional credentials throughout their career.

“For NOVA, G3 puts a college degree that leads to a meaningful career within reach of the full diversity of the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Anne M. Kress, president of NOVA. “An investment in community college students is an investment in Virginia, one that will help families find economic security while helping the state achieve economic growth.”

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 child care. Students who qualify for a full federal Pell grant and enroll full-time will receive student- support incentive grants on a semester basis. These grants will be in an amount up to $900 per semester and up to $450 per summer term. Participating institutions will receive a performance payment for every eligible student receiving a student-support incentive grant that successfully completes 30 credit hours, and an additional performance payment when the student earns an associate degree.

How to qualify for the G3 program: Initial eligibility for the G3 program is determined through the submission of applications for federal and state student financial aid, including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. To address pandemic-related declines in FAFSA completion rates, Governor Northam recently announced a statewide effort to offer free, one-on-one FAFSA advising. From March 22 through June 30, 2021, Virginia students and families can go to virginiacan.org/fafsa to schedule a virtual meeting with a FAFSA advisor. Current and future Loudoun students are encouraged to contact the financial aid staff at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun campus.

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