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January 23, 2020 · OPINION

State program would help “working poor” students

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The program would provide financial aid to community college students pursuing careers in healthcare, technology, manufacturing and skilled trades, early childhood education and public safety.
By Kimberly P. Blosser
President, Lord Fairfax Community College
John A. Downey
President, Blue Ridge Community College

By 2026, Virginia needs to fill 2.6 million jobs that will require more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. A proposal in the General Assembly, “G3” (Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back) charts a strategic path toward filling that gap.

G3 addresses the critical workforce shortages many local businesses are currently facing. In fact, our colleges have spent the past year listening to leaders in those businesses to identify what skills they need most. G3 is designed to give more individuals in our area access to career and technical training programs in the following high-demand fields:

• Healthcare.

• Information Technology and Computer Science.

• Manufacturing and Skilled Trades.

• Early Childhood Education.

• Public Safety.

G3 is an enhanced financial aid program that makes higher education more accessible to low- and middle-income individuals. G3 provides financial support for tuition, textbooks and cost-of-living expenses that will help them enroll and complete career-focused workforce training programs.

(Editor’s Note: Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed biennial budget allocate $72.5 million a year for the program.)

G3 would make a big difference for people in our communities, including ALICE families and individuals. The United Way introduced us to ALICE, which means Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, and Employed. In other words, ALICE is the working poor. Two out of five Virginia households are within the ALICE population. You likely know members of ALICE. They are your neighbors, your coworkers, perhaps you or members of your own family. We’d like to share with you the stories of two of our ALICE students.

Jenny is a single parent of three children and a full-time student in our nursing (RN) program. During the week, she is in class three days a week and at her clinical rotation for two days. She drives one hour each way to train with her nurse preceptor at a hospital. This only leaves the weekend to work, where she spends 15 to 20 hours as a licensed practical nurse at a care facility. 
Because Jenny has a part-time job, she will receive some federal financial aid to cover tuition and books, but likely not a full Pell grant.  She also receives a modest scholarship. Yet, there is still a gap between the funds she receives for college and the costs of rent, utilities, gas and children. G3 is designed to bridge that funding gap and keep Jenny on the path toward a rewarding career with a good salary in a high-demand area. 

Mike has been working for a recycling company, and his wife is employed in a manufacturing plant. His job is being phased out and he needs to find another career. So he enrolled in classes with the goal of becoming a manufacturing technician. This grandfather of four does not qualify for federal aid, but G3 could help support him while he learns a new skill to be employed in an industry desperate for employees.
The region needs more nurses. We need people in the trades to fix and build things. We need technicians to protect our data. We need more skilled workers to help recruit and support business and industry in our region. Because graduates from G3 programs will be contributing more in state income taxes as they become higher earners, the commonwealth will enjoy a tangible return on the investment in G3. We encourage each of you and our state legislators to support G3.

Dr. Blosser leads LFCC, based in Middletown with satellite campuses in Warrenton and Luray. Dr. Downey leads BRCC at Weyers Cave in Augusta County.
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Jim Griffin · January 30, 2020 at 7:19 pm
Dr. Blosser is terrific. We are fortunate to have her leading our local community college and I agree with her: Community investment in education earns solid returns, financially and otherwise.
SmithMatthew · January 30, 2020 at 3:12 pm
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of state choices for supporting the working poor. Each proposal would not be appropriate for any state. Rather, it report shows the scope of interventions available to states. Finest proofreading services
Nathan Holt · January 28, 2020 at 5:20 pm
It is good that students are provided with more opportunities. My friend also participated in a similar program and was able to find a good editor job in the future. Such programs are very important for students who do not have many opportunities.
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