Virginia’s Community Colleges saw an enrollment increase last fall in career and technical training programs for Virginia’s highest demand fields. Fall 2021 enrollment data also reveals that students in G3 eligible programs are qualifying for and receiving greater financial assistance, increasing access to the education and resources that leads to better job placement and life outcomes.
From fall 2020 to fall 2021, the number of community college students in G3-eligible programs increased by 9%, and the total financial aid awarded to students in those programs increased by 20%. There is further good news within that data for the effort to reduce student debt: four out of every five dollars being awarded to students in G3 eligible programs is non-loan aid, meaning that it does not have to be repaid.
“What we’re seeing in the numbers is that there is a need across the commonwealth for fast, affordable, efficient, career-specific training and educational programs – and this is what community colleges do best,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “With our career and technical focus through G3 and FastForward, we’re getting more students in the door to fill the high-demand jobs that are waiting for the right candidate with the right set of specialized skills.”
G3, which launched in July 2021, is a last-dollar tuition assistance program for low and middle-income Virginians focusing on early childhood education, healthcare, information technology, public safety and skilled trades. FastForward is short-term training that prepares learners for industry credentials in similar high-demand fields. Both programs are run through all 23 of Virginia’s Community Colleges. Last fall, 26,179 students enrolled in G3 eligible programs. FastForward served an additional 6,836 students at the same time. Altogether, those 33,015 students would be Virginia’s second biggest community college.
The latest figures demonstrate how financial assistance programs like G3 and FastForward are working during uncertain times. According to a recent survey of FastForward completers who went through the program 2020-2021, the average wage gains post-training was $11,626. Breaking down the post-training wages by industry, significantly higher wage gains were reported from education ($27,806), information technology ($19,403) and welding and manufacturing ($16,975) credentials.
“Gone are the days when workforce and career and technical training are the lesser-than option. These programs are leading to family-sustaining wages and are preparing individuals for positions that Virginia businesses are desperately looking to fill,” Sharon Morrissey, Virginia’s Community Colleges senior vice chancellor for academic and workforce programs, said. “Students are able to come to their local community college for 6-12 weeks and earn what they need to get their foot in the door of a great career, and the longer the stay with us, the more credentials they earn to help move up the ladder – further solidifying their ability to work and comfortably live their lives.”