New River Community & Technical College President Dr. Bonny Copenhaver believes enrollment at the college will increase by 20 percent next semester due to the WV Invests Grant.
The West Virginia Legislature recently passed a bill, which will allow an individual to receive a high-quality certificate or associate degree for free. Sometimes referred to as the "free community college" bill, the program is a "last dollar in" program, meaning students use all of their other federal and/or state grant awards first, then WV Invests will cover the remaining costs for tuition and fees at community and technical colleges throughout the state.
Copenhaver said her estimation of a 20 percent increase in enrollment is due to enrollment spikes in other states who have also implemented their versions of WV Invests.
"This will mean that students can come to us to earn a degree or credential and pay no tuition and no mandatory fees," Copenhaver said. "It is a wonderful way to invest in the education of our citizens and to bring peoples skill level up."
In order to qualify for WV invests, an individual must have lived in the state of West Virginia for one year, and have a high school diploma or GED. Those who qualify under WV Invests must also pass a drug screening every semester to stay in the program, and complete eight hours of community service working, adding up for two hours per semester.
Just like other college applicants, individuals interested in taking part in the program have fill out a federal financial aid form, along with an application to the college.
New River Community & Technical College offers 60 programs, and 32 of those programs are to be offered under WV Invests.
Certifications will include, automotive maintenance and light repair, bookkeeping, cosmetology, diesel service technology, electric distribution engineering technology, esthetics, industrial technology, IT foundations, legal office assistant, machining technology, massage therapy, medical insurance billing and coding, paramedic, paraprofessional education, practical nursing and welding technology.
The associate degrees will include automotive service technology, business (concentrations in accounting, marketing and management), business administration, office technology, computer science, criminal justice, diesel service technology, emergency medical services, hospitality and tourism management, industrial technology, legal assisting, medical assisting, medical laboratory technician, paraprofessional education, social services and welding technology.
Once students under WV Invests complete their certification or receive their associate degrees, they are required to live in West Virginia for two years, or they must pay the tuition back.
students cannot qualify if they already have a college degree, or if they've earned over 90 college credits. Most of the students that we see here, have no massed 90 credits, we do have some students who already hold a bachelors degree and they come back to us, so of course those students would not apply.
Students who already have a college degree or have earned up to 90 hours of college credits do not qualify for the program, however, students already enrolled in a community and technical college have the option to switch programs and enroll under WV Invests if they so choose.
Although it's called a "free community and technical college" program, there are some pieces of educational costs that are not covered, including books or program or course fees. However, if a student qualifies for financial aid, that money could be used to cover those fees.
"I think this is going to do wonderful things for the state of West Virginia," Copenhaver said. "Anytime you get people to come back to school, complete their education, or qualify for a better job, life gets better for your community and your system."
Copenhaver said the majority of New River Community & Technical College's graduates, will stay in West Virignia to work, which will increases the economic prosperity of the region.She said when the state has a more trained workforce, counties, communities and cities are able to recruit other industries to come to the area.
"This just makes me so incredibly proud. I've spent my whole life working in community colleges because I think they are the best way to bring people into education, and I'm excited this will be offered to high school graduates and adults, broadening it even more so everyone has an opportunity."
To find out more about the program, or to apply, visit, http://wvinvests.org/.
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