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Enrollment increases in Virginia’s ‘G3’ community college programs

Spartanburg Community College welding instructor Teresa Elder (left) grades Harris during class.
Mike Belleme for NPR
Spartanburg Community College welding instructor Teresa Elder (left) grades Harris during class.

One of former Governor Ralph Northam’s signature policy proposals is known as G3 — that’s an investment in community colleges that helps low-income students get in-demand work credentials at little or no cost to them. This past fall was the first full semester of the program, and it bucked the trend of low-enrollment.

Between Fall of 2020 and Fall of 2021 community college enrollment in Virginia declined overall by about 4-percent.

But according to a spokesperson for Virginia’s community colleges, enrollment in G3-eligible programs actually went up, by about 9-percent. That includes degrees and certificates in things like IT, healthcare, and early education.

Nearly half the students taking advantage of those programs were 25 and older, and many work hard to make ends meet.

“We know that of all the students who enrolled in G3 programs last Fall, slightly more than 11-percent were receiving SNAP benefits during that semester,” explains Jeffrey Kraus, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Relations at the Virginia Community College System.

“So this program is reaching out to people who otherwise would have found higher education out of reach and it’s helping them move forward,” Kraus says. “That’s a terrific thing for them individually. It’s a great thing for the businesses who are looking for these businesses to hire. And it’s a great thing for Virginia overall.”

According to Kraus the state has spent about $16 million on the G3 program since it began last summer. That money covers the cost of tuition, fees and books after other federal and state financial aid is accounted for. More than 6,000 students statewide took advantage of those benefits in the Fall semester.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.