Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia, a Democrat, on Thursday unveiled a budget proposal for $145 million over two years to make community college tuition free for low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields.
Under the plan, eligible students would receive state support to cover tuition, fees and books. The state also would provide "wraparound financial assistance" to help students at the lowest income levels with expenses for food, transportation and childcare.
Targeted industries for the grant program will include health care, information technology, skilled trades, public safety and early childhood education.
To remain eligible, students would need to sign a community engagement agreement and complete two hours of work experience, community service or public service for every enrolled credit hour.
“This large investment will help tens of thousands of Virginians earn the skills needed to fully participate in our 21st-century economy,” Glenn Dubois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, said in a statement. “With the redesign of our workforce programs, we are ready to make sure all Virginians can get the right skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”