Story by David Beard, The Dominion Post
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House Education Committee unanimously approved a bill aimed at beefing up the state’s workforce by subsidizing high school students who want to enroll in career-path higher education courses.
HB 2005 would establish a four-year pilot program for high school students to take dual credit college courses where they receive credit at both their high school and the higher education institution.
Students would have to be enrolled in eligible courses leading to careers in designated career pathways: direct care health professions; information technology; science, technology, engineering, construction, and math (STEM) fields; education; advanced manufacturing; welding and fabrication; agriculture; “and any other program that meets a workforce need in the state as determined by the Department of Commerce.”
To pay for it, the Legislature would appropriate money to the Higher Education Policy Commission and the Council for Community & Technical College Education to directly pay the higher education institution for the tuition and fees incurred by the students for those courses.
The state Department of Education says in a fiscal note that for the 2020-2021 school year,7,873 high school students enrolled in 16,046 courses. Projecting that 10,000 students will enroll under the bill, it estimates the cost at $4.2 million.
The HEPC and CCTCE used a slightly different formula – the average annual number of high school students enrolling in public higher education institutions over the last 3 academic years – to project a higher price tag: $5.8 million.
HEPC Chancellor Sarah Tucker explained the need for the bill. Currently, students pay their own costs for dual enrollment, she said, so only those from families that can afford the costs take the courses. And county school boards set criteria such as high GPAs that limit enrollment to kids who are already college bound.
But the state had only a 46% college-going rate and huge workforce gaps, she said, so this bill opens the door to more students. “I really need our middle-skill students to get those opportunities.”
Discussing how the bill would be paid for, Tucker said maybe from surplus, but that’s up to the Legislature. While the bill isn’t referenced to Finance, Tucker said she’ll bring this up when she makes her budget presentation to that committee.
The bill now goes to the House floor.