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‘Last dollar in’ tuition program gets push in Senate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would provide funding to pay off a career and technical college student’s tuition balance was introduced in the state Senate Monday.

The measure (SB 284) that would create the West Virginia Invests Grant Program received positive comments from both Republicans and Democrats during a handful of floor speeches.

“This would help everyone that wants to attend community and technical college to further their education, to gain a stackable skill set, to allow them to take that trade and that education to the workforce and the job market to better themselves,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson), the bill’s main sponsor, said during a floor speech.

MORE Read text of bill here

Some are also calling the proposal the ‘last dollar in’ program. Modeled after a similar program in the state of Tennessee, the program would provide payment of what’s left of a tuition and fee bill after all other forms of financial aid are exhausted.

Carmichael said it works in Tennessee.

“They mentor the applicant so that they have to apply for every Pell Grant, every job retraining application and it costs that state roughly $900 for every student per year,” Carmichael said.

Dr. Sarah Tucker

State Community and Technical College Chancellor Sarah Tucker told members of the House Finance Committee Monday afternoon she believes the program would cost the state an average of $800 per CTC student. Gov. Jim Justice has allocated $7 million in his proposed state budget to fund it.

Community and technical college students in West Virginia are eligible for the Promise Scholarship which is a merit-based scholarship for state high school graduates. The program cost $47 million last year. But the majority of CTC students are non-traditional, they don’t come straight out of high school.

Carmichael’s comments on the Senate for the new program brought support from both fellow Republicans and Democrats.

Craig Blair

“This will provide a broad spectrum, drug-free, business-ready workforce for the state of West Virginia and we all benefit collectively together by utilizing all of those talents together,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Craig Blair (R-Berkeley) said.

Senator Bob Plymale (D-Wayne) applauded Carmichael for sponsoring the bill and said the program is about job training.

“We are not preparing the workforce for today and tomorrow. We need to get serious about that,” Plymale said.

Senator Mike Romano (D-Harrison) said there are welding jobs available in his district that begin at $45,000 a year. He said they need state residents to fill them.

Senator Bob Plymale (D-Wayne)

“Those are the kind of jobs that would be available to West Virginians if we could push this through and make this happen,” Romano said.

The bill creates a 13th year for a student who graduates from high school if he or she is pursuing an advanced certification or advanced career education program.

It also establishes what’s called an Advanced Career Education program between high schools and community and technical colleges that would allow some students to obtain associate degrees while they are in high school.

According to the text of the bill it would “create clear and efficient pathways that begin in high school and lead to obtaining advanced certifications and associate degrees will increase the number of students that ultimately obtain a post-secondary credential or degree; and West Virginia’s economic prosperity is directly tied to the level and quality of its workforce career education. Providing the students of this state with increased access to career education will not only improve the general well-being of its citizens, but greatly enhance the economic prosperity of the state.”

The bill was forwarded to the Senate Education Committee Monday.





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