CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Senate Education Committee Chairman Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said expanding opportunities for community and technical college education throughout West Virginia is critical first step toward achieving comprehensive education reform.
Senate Bill 1, Increasing access to career education and workforce training, is scheduled to be voted upon today. Last year, Senate Bill 284 passed the Senate unanimously, but did not make it out of the House of Delegates.
“I believe it’s our obligation to do everything in our power to remove the obstacles for people who are committed to learning the skills they will need to build a successful career,” Senator Rucker said. “Whether it’s a new college student or a person who is looking to return to the workforce, we have the ability to empower them to find jobs in high-demand fields with this last-dollar-in program to help them achieve their dreams.”
The bill would create an Advanced Career Education program that will be required to provide a curriculum that leads to an associate’s degree or advanced certification that has been determined to satisfy an area of workforce need as determined the Department of Commerce. It also creates the West Virginia Invests Grant Program. The program provides recipients with a grant to cover the “last dollar in” of tuition at one of West Virginia’s community and technical colleges if the student meets certain conditions, including maintaining a minimum grade point average, completing a number of volunteer hours per semester, and passing a drug test. In addition, it would require the student to live in West Virginia for two years after completing the program, or repay the grant back to the State.
“This program has seen tremendous success in other states, and we know that West Virginia has the kinds of jobs that require these two-year degrees,” Senator Rucker said. “Quality workforce training and education is something we must make available to all West Virginians, and it’s my hope that this year the House of Delegates will join the Senate in supporting this goal. If we truly want to reform our education system and put students first, we must make bold, aggressive changes at every level.”