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Virginia program provides free tuition for community college students

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Posted at 4:52 PM, Mar 31, 2021

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.— Marcus Moody found a passion for welding and a new career path when he needed it most.

“I previously worked in the banking industry, but during the recession I lost my job, so I had to find another job,” Moody said.

He graduated from Tidewater Community College with a certificate in welding and has worked in machine shops and for private contractors. He even came back to his alma mater as a part-time instructor.

“Once you learn it [a skill or trade], no one can take it from you and you can use it throughout the rest of your life,” he said.

Higher education comes at a cost— one that Moody says he paid for with financial aid and a part-time job. Now, students like him will be offered more help.

Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation Tuesday creating the “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” initiative, or “G3” program.

It makes tuition-free community college available to low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields, enabling an estimated 36,000 Virginians to earn degrees.

“This will definitely enable us to reach more students and ultimately have an impact on increasing enrollment at Tidewater Community College, as well as we're increasing retention and graduation rates,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs at Tidewater Community College Dr. Michelle Woodhouse.

The $36 million program can cover tuition, fees, books and support for eligible students at two-year public colleges in Virginia like TCC.

“This is just going to be so crucial,” Woodhouse said. “It's going to assist those students who've been impacted by the global pandemic and, more importantly, we are going to be able to grow our workforce by producing graduates in these in demand fields here in our region."

TCC has a long list of programs that are approved for G3 funding including welding, nursing, cybersecurity, computer science and more.

To qualify for the program at TCC, students must apply to the institution, complete their financial aid package and then meet with an adviser.

The college believes the G3 program will increase enrollment and retention rates, providing a pathway for more people to achieve their career and financial goals.