Virginia Governor Unveils Plan for Free Community College

The program comes with income and course-of-study requirements

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Some prospective students in Virginia may get a chance to go to community college for free.

In an announcement at Northern Virginia Community College on Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam released the first details of a plan that will be brought before the General Assembly later this month.

The $145 million, two-year proposal would give students under a certain income level funds for college if they pursue studies in high-demand fields. Targeted industries include health care, information technology, skilled trades and early childhood education, the governor's office said in a statement.

Northam hopes the program will be approved in the next budget, which could mean students receive support as early as the fall 2020 semester, a spokesperson said.

"We have a gap between the growing number of high-demand jobs in Virginia and the number of individuals who are trained to fill those openings," Northam said.

The state's 23 community colleges offer a way to fill that gap, Northam said.

Northam coined the plan the "G3 Program," which stands for "Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back."

Northam's office did not detail exactly which income or study requirements would be adopted. Full details of the budget plan will be revealed when he addresses the Joint Money Committees on Dec. 17.

In addition to income and course of study requirements, students must agree to complete some work experience, community service or public service every semester.

The program is one of the first in the country that also would provide students with the lowest incomes an additional stipend for expenses including child care, transportation and food, Northam says. Those grants could be up to $1,000 per semester or $500 for a summer. That money would only be available to full-time students with a Pell Grant, a form of federal financial aid.

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