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Virginia’s College Grants For More Than Just Tuition

It is verifiable truth that college students spend their precious financial aid dollars on a lot more than tuition. Textbooks cost an arm and housing costs a leg. The free printing budget at almost any institution is in all likelihood, laughably small. And, if students don’t want to eat cafeteria food in the mess hall every single solitary day, three times a day, for four years, they’ll have to shell out a nice amount of grocery money. The state of Virginia is looking to ease that suffering of college students with a proposal that would give grants to cover the cost of living, not just tuition. 

This is part of Virginia’s G3 program which makes community college free for low and middle income students. What sets governor Ralph Northam’s project apart, is that it doesn’t default to either paying for the whole semester upfront, or just paying off the difference after adding up grants the student has received. The G3 program will not only pay off a student’s post grant balance but will add another $1,000 to aid in the cost of living. 

“Now these students are working two part-time jobs and not three,” said Megan Healy, the chief workforce development adviser for the state. 

The cost of living bonus is based on what a student would make working 10 hours a week at the state’s minimum wage of $7.25. Still, the program is limited to families that make up to 400 percent the state poverty level of $25,465 for a family of four. That means families making up to $101,860 are still eligible. That’s a pretty huge deal for a majority of students given that the median income in Virginia is around $72,500. 

The only real caveat to the deal is that students will have to sign a “community engagement agreement” which means that they will do two hours of work training or community and public service for every credit hour they sign up for.  That’s only about 30 hours of service for 15 free credits. It seems like even less of an issue when you consider that some poor NYU freshman 400 miles away is dropping $1,795 per credit hour with not a single cost of living bonus in sight. 

*Article by Raz Robinson, journalist and freelance writer, based in New York City. Connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter @razrobinson or send an email to Rrob0904 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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