Posted on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Van Wilson’s “fully-loaded plane” analogy is just one of several images that have been used to describe the fast-approaching roll-out of a new state initiative designed to make community college accessible to thousands of new students seeking career training.

Community colleges statewide must be prepared this coming fall semester to welcome new students through Governor Northam’s G3 (“Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back”) program. That means planning for implementation of G3 had to be in the works even before Virginia lawmakers decided critical budgetary and other operational details in the closing hours of their legislative session last week.

Wilson, associate vice chancellor for student experience and strategic initiatives, welcomed more than 300 VCCS coaches, student advisors, financial aid personnel, deans, coordinators and VPs to a two-day training and motivational rally in Roanoke March 2.

It was the last major VCCS professional development conference to occur before the coronavirus emergency forced cancellation of large gatherings.

“You and your institutions are squarely in the middle of this initiative,” said Wilson. “In addition to meeting the workforce demands of tomorrow, the jobs gained through G3 training at our colleges will provide a social and economic elevator to help Virginians who struggle to make ends meet.”

The goal of the initiative is to remove or greatly reduce financial barriers for community college career training students in five high demand fields: healthcare, information technology and computer science, manufacturing and skilled trades, public safety, and early childhood education.

It’s important to remember that Governor Northam may recommend changes to be considered by the legislature April 22. But, for now, here’s the plan: the new state budget approved by lawmakers March 12 includes $34.5 million per year for the G3 initiative, for a total of $69M over the two-year budget cycle that begins in July.

In addition, the program:
• maintains the income eligibility requirements proposed by the Governor at 400% of the federal poverty level (meaning applicants would qualify for G3 with a family income of up to $100,000 for a family of four)
• does not require students to participate in community service to receive program funding
• does include students enrolled in eligible noncredit (i.e. FastForward) programs; and
• includes up to $2,250 in incentive support to full-time students who are receiving full Pell grants.


At the VCCS coaching and advising session, people who will be on the front lines of the G3 roll-out expressed an understandable blend of excitement and nervousness.

“Students who come to us from this program will definitely need help,” said Bernadette Battle. Before she joined Reynolds as associate dean of advising services, Battle was dean of students at Southside Virginia College. “They’ll need help navigating the process, everything from academics to financial aid. And I believe we’ll need to re-think our classroom schedules to accommodate more working students.”


“I think student success will be hinged upon the knowledge of the staff members that work directly with G3 students,” said Jordan Hewett, academic advising manager at Germanna Community College. “My philosophy of advising is that the quality of the student relationship will carry you farther than anything else. And while we know that many of these new students will be looking to gain hard technical skills, they probably will also need to develop their soft skills as well.”


“I think it will be important for us to be supportive of these students and also to be very knowledgeable about community resources to help them cope with challenges like hunger and shelter,” said Beth Styers, student services coordinator at Blue Ridge Community College. “I see this as a big opportunity for working Virginians. And, who knows, it might bring more recognition to the fact that a bachelor’s degree is not the only path to a good career.”

And this final observation: as noted above, lawmakers voted to remove the community service requirement, but, for now at least, the program still will be called G3.

More photos of the coaching and advising institute here.'

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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