Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin told the VCCS State Board last week, “You have my commitment to be with you, to be accessible, to be involved.” It was a clear expression that Youngkin wants a “hands-on” relationship with Virginia’s Community Colleges.
A series of visits to community colleges this summer had already signaled the Younkin administration’s interest in the work done on our campuses.
In early August, the governor traveled to Southside Virginia Community College to boost workforce training and his plan to establish “laboratory schools” which will test out new relationships between colleges and K-12 public schools, employers and other community leaders.
Also in August, Youngkin’s Labor Secretary, Brian Slater, was at Paul D. Camp Community college to help announce the Virginia Infrastructure Academy, which will provide VCCS workforce training to 35,000 Virginians who will re-build the commonwealth’s aging roads, bridges, ports and utilities.
And a little more than two weeks ago, Governor Youngkin was at Brightpoint Community College in Chester to announce plans to expand pharmaceutical manufacturing in the Richmond-Petersburg area. Brightpoint and Reynolds will train skilled workers for the new enterprises.
Meeting with the VCCS State Board, Youngkin had high praise for programs at Virginia’s Community Colleges that help workers learn the skills they need to succeed in the state’s dynamic economy. He also cited the value of academic programs designed to help students transfer to senior institutions. Youngkin noted a recent SCHEV report that students who first earn an associate degree and then transfer to a baccalaureate institution save more than $20,000 on the cost of a bachelor’s degree.
Youngkin thanked community colleges for holding the line on tuition hikes to help Virginia families cope with the climbing cost of living.
Youngkin argued that close collaboration with employers will ensure that community colleges continue to produce people with the right skills to fuel the economy.
“We were delighted the governor took time to be with us,” said Douglas Garcia, Chair of the VCCS State Board. “We share his vision on workforce development and we share a commitment to ensure that our colleges will thrive and be an integral part in preparing individuals for jobs in high demand areas as well as serving students who want to transfer to four-year institutions.”
The governor also made it clear he believes community colleges should play a significant role in reforming Virginia’s entire education system, specifically calling for an expansion of dual enrollment programs which allow high school students to earn college credits.
“One of the things you’re going to hear a lot about as we work together is dual enrollment,” said Youngkin. “Imagine every single high school student graduating with either an associate’s degree or a credential that would enable them either go to work immediately and live their dreams for a fast growing company here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Youngkin called for “a new way of thinking” about what community colleges do, and without offering specifics, said some programs have outlived their usefulness.
“And here we stand together with the ability to dream about what the community college must be, and we recognize that there are opportunities and there are challenges.”
“And I want to thank all of you for your commitment. I want to thank you for your partnership. Today it’s a new day for all of us to collectively chart a path forward.”