Editor’s note: The global coronavirus pandemic is expected to have a major impact on the world economy, and that could affect the spending plans approved by Virginia lawmakers during their 2020 legislative session. The article below was based on the state budget enacted by the General Assembly on March 12. Lawmakers are due back in Richmond April 22 to consider possible amendments from the governor. For now, this is the best information we have:
The debate over continued tuition relief for students at state colleges and universities is one of the issues that forced Virginia lawmakers into overtime during the 2020 General Assembly. But the resulting compromise looked like a winner for families statewide.
In the state budget for the two-year spending cycle that begin July 1, lawmakers agreed to earmark $54.7 million for in-state tuition freezes at Virginia’s publicly-funded colleges and universities for the 2020-21 academic year.
If colleges and universities agree to accept the funds, it would mean a second year of the tuition freeze that began in the current, 2019-20 academic year. The VCCS State Board will consider tuitions for the upcoming academic year when the board meets in May.
The tuition freeze at our colleges this year was the first in two decades. State supported colleges and universities across Virginia had raised their tuitions substantially in previous years during periods of steep funding cuts from state government.
In addition to the possibility of tuition relief, the budget includes an additional $4.6 million in traditional student financial-aid support for VCCS students over the biennium.
G3: a “game changer” for Virginia’s Community Colleges:
State lawmakers also agreed to fund Governor Ralph Northam’s G3 initiative to make community college more accessible to low and middle-income students who pursue targeted career training programs. G3 (Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back.)
The new state spending plan includes $34.5M per year for a total of $69M over the biennium for G3. In addition, lawmakers decided that the program:
• would be open to students from families making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (in round numbers, a family of four with household income of $100,000 per year)
• would also include students enrolled in specific non-credit (i.e. FastForward) programs
• would include up to $2,250 in incentive support to full-time students who are receiving full Pell grants
• would not require students to participate in community service to receive program funding;
Even though lawmakers eliminated the community service component of the program, the name will still be G3…at least for now.
The budget approved by lawmakers includes money for a 3 percent bonus for classified state employees, college faculty and adjunct faculty on December 1, 2020, and a 3 percent raise for those same workers in the budget year that begins July 2021.
Lawmakers continued funding for the state’s Workforce Credential Grants that help to make the VCCS’s FastForward career training programs so affordable for Virginians.
The budget includes $17.5 million for each of the upcoming two years for the workforce grants.
Since the program began in July 2016, Virginians have earned more than 19,000 valuable workforce credentials through FastForward, helping people secure better paying jobs.
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