Students in West Virginia are now able to apply for a new grant that will make tuition at some of the state’s public community college programs free.
The WV Invests Grant, which was overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers this year in Senate Bill 1, now has an online application website students can access.
Sarah Tucker, chancellor for the state’s Community and Technical College System, said students can get a valuable education from community colleges in West Virginia.
“It opens the door to high-demand jobs,” she said. “It allows people to earn credentials close to home. It’s adaptable to their busy schedules. It’s in sync with industry needs, so graduates have jobs waiting on them. And, thanks to this forward-looking investment by the state, it’s now more affordable than ever before.”
Lawmakers had been working to make community college free for more than two years.
The proposal was first introduced in the Legislature in 2018, and although it won support among senators on both sides of the aisle, the House of Delegates never considered the proposal.
This year, with a little more budget flexibility, the proposal passed almost unanimously in both chambers and was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice.
The Community and Technical College System announced that the website launched Thursday morning when the the system’s governing council met for a regularly scheduled meeting in Charleston.
The grant is known as a last-in program, meaning that all other federal and state financial aid must be applied to a student’s account first before the newly created grant kicks in.
The grant does not cover the cost of books and special fees associated with certain courses.
The grant also does not cover all programs offered by community colleges. The state Department of Commerce approved a list of programs the grant can be used for. The programs align with specific career fields that have a high demand for trained workers right now.
“These eligible academic programs represent high-demand fields so our students are earning their credentials for the careers that matter in West Virginia,” Tucker said. “From allied health fields and computer science to electric utility and welding technologies, these are the programs that lead to real jobs — and allow our graduates to continue living, working and raising their families in the Mountain State.
The grant is available only to people who have been legal residents of West Virginia for at least one year before applying. Applicants also must have graduated from high school or passed a high school equivalency test.
Students awarded the grant must “make a commitment to live in West Virginia for at least two years after graduation,” according to a press release from the Community and Technical College System, and must complete at least two hours of community service each semester.
Students also must maintain a 2.0 GPA in all coursework, and they must pay for and pass a drug screening test before an academic term begins.
To apply for the grant, students need to apply online at http://wvinvests.org/. They also will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance, commonly known as the FAFSA. That application is also linked on the WV Invest Grant’s website.
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