G3 is a good long-term investment.
Since 1962, Mountain Gateway Community College (MGCC) has provided opportunities that were previously unavailable to our region. Embracing a philosophy based on the value of readily accessible higher education, we have opened doors to better futures for many thousands of students. In the process of helping students meet their educational and career goals, MGCC also has addressed the needs of employers for trained workers and played a key role in fostering economic development.
While MGCC is proud of a record of accomplishment of sustained success over the decades, we also realize that more work remains to be done. Despite the availability of a number of support programs, too many Virginians face financial barriers that prevent college attendance. At the same time, employers throughout the region — and across the Commonwealth --struggle to find and maintain the workforce needed to compete in a global economy.
To bring a new approach to tackling these problems, a groundbreaking proposal by Gov. Ralph Northam is now being considered by the Virginia General Assembly. The G3 initiative (Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back) would provide tuition and other support for low-income and middle-income Virginians to attend any of the state’s two-year colleges. To qualify, students would be required first to apply for federal and state financial aid programs for which they may be eligible. They would enroll in specified high-demand programs within five targeted career areas: Healthcare, Information Technology, Manufacturing and Skilled Trades, Early Childhood Education, and Public Safety. To remain eligible upon enrollment, students would need to maintain satisfactory academic progress and fulfill required hours of work experience, community service, or public service.
I realize that even in prosperous times, resources are not unlimited. In the case of the G3 initiative, I believe the long-term return on investment would be significant. For individuals, it would offer an affordable pathway to in-demand careers. Many of the students served would likely come from the population known as ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). This group comprises those who hold down jobs and earn more than the official federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living. For them, the chance to gain the credentials needed for higher paying jobs could be life changing. For businesses and other organizations, G3 would provide badly needed workers in areas where labor shortages now exist.
Certainly, the economy as a whole would benefit from an increase in productive citizens contributing to the tax base (it is estimated that completers of G3 programs would pay up to 60 percent more in state taxes than in their current low-wage jobs). And a higher level of competitiveness for employers would benefit everyone.
As the 2020 General Session continues and decisions are made regarding this promising legislation, the Local Board, faculty, staff, and students of MGCC urge support from not only our legislators, but also from anyone who would like to see MGCC bring forth this bold new plan.
College is Not Out of Reach for Anyone
Many of us listen to the news or read social media posts that college is out of reach and only the elite have resources to take advantage of a better career. Let me tell you, that is fake news!
A community college is the place where individuals – of all ages – who never dreamed of a college education are finding themselves on the path to the American Dream. At Mountain Gateway Community College (MGCC), we serve students from ages 15-80. Some are dually-enrolled in high school, others take classes for personal satisfaction, but more prepare for transfer to universities or entering the local workforce.
In a recent study we commissioned from EMSI, a leading economic impact company, 54% of the adults in our service region have only some college or just a high school diploma or GED. Meanwhile, in MGCC’s service region which includes the counties of Alleghany, Rockbridge, Bath, and northern Botetourt and the cities of Covington, Lexington, and Buena Vista there are at least 100 unfilled jobs in the areas of manufacturing, transportation, customer service, and hospitality. To be considered for these unfilled job openings, applicants need to demonstrate the knowledge and skill sets for the position. In the current economy, growing numbers of high-wage, high-demand jobs may not always require a bachelor’s degree. One may enter a career pathway with a certificate, license, industry credential, or an associate’s degree.
We know that a high school diploma or GED is no longer enough to ensure that Americans have the skills they need to move into good-paying and rewarding careers. By the end of this decade, almost 70 percent of all job openings will require an education or skills training beyond what any student receives in high school. Completing these extra steps will translate to higher earnings over a lifetime, perhaps as much as a half a million dollars.
Every student, regardless of family income, should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA. This is the first step in the financial process to access grants, scholarships or student loans. At MGCC, many students who think they could not receive financial aid learn that they are indeed eligible for aid and the chance to participate in our programs such as the Dabney Promise or the America’s Promise Grant. Numbers as of March 1 from the Federal Student Aid website show only 48% of Virginia high school seniors have completed the FAFSA for next school year. It is critical that all students apply!
Thanks to the support of the Virginia Legislature, MGCC and all the state’s community colleges have been able to provide funding for high-demand industry training through the New Economy Workforce Credentials Grant Program. This program provides tuition assistance to expand the affordability of workforce training and credentialing for current and future Virginia workers needed to fill selected technician and skilled-trades level positions.
Mountain Gateway Community College is here to help you with your American Dream. In my almost 29 years in community college education, there has never been as much access to available tuition dollars as there is right now. All of us who work in higher education have witnessed how education has unlocked doors of opportunity. Our resources can help unlock the door to your dreams.
I bring greetings from Mountain Gateway Community College as I take this opportunity to share information and provide you with continuous updates. On May 12, we honored over 220 graduates who earned over 375 credentials at Commencement, one of our largest graduating classes in 20 years.
MGCC student enrollment remains strong. This past year we saw a 4.8% enrollment increase, the largest of all 23 community colleges in Virginia. In August, students will find new programs in Cyber Security, Science and Mathematics, as well as a Pipefitting Welding program.
Dual enrollment remains a major initiative for the college. Over 800 students participated in dual enrollment programs over the past academic year from our partner school divisions. I thank our partner schools for working with MGCC on increasing the educational attainment in our region.
Grants provide resources to launch new programs and to strengthen and expand existing ones. MGCC was excited to be part of a federal award of $3.6 million to offer tuition scholarships to students in areas of advanced manufacturing including drone technology; EMS to Paramedic degree option; or massage therapy.
To bridge the financial gap, a new, need-based scholarship launched this past year; The Dabney Promise. The Dabney Promise provides students who desire to study at MGCC the ability to do so, without concern of the financial burdens of higher education. Thanks to generous donors, we provided scholarships to 53 students who may not have been able to follow their dream of earning a college credential.
Thanks to the support of the Virginia Legislature, MGCC provided approximately 100 individuals with high-demand industry training through the New Economy Workforce Credentials Grant Program. The program provides tuition assistance for workforce training and credentialing for current and future Virginia workers in selected technician, technologist, and trade-level positions.
Too many individuals believe that higher education is out of financial reach for them and their families. MGCC is committed to working with you. Pathways to college and career success await you at your community college. Best wishes for a wonderful summer.