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Virginia’s community colleges bring unparalleled value

For the fourth year in a row, tuition at Southside Virginia Community College will remain unchanged.

The State Board for Community Colleges made the decision by unanimous vote earlier this year. As a result, tuition at Virginia’s community colleges represent an unparalleled value in education.

The tuition rate of $154 per credit hour represents approximately one-third of the comparable cost to attend one of Virginia’s public four-year universities, but the tuition savings is only part of the picture. A host of financial aid options are also available. In fact, according to recent data, 90% of first-time students at SVCC received financial aid. The average annual amount awarded each recipient totaled $5,224.

Sources of financial assistance include Federal Pell Grants, which are available to qualifying students based on financial need. Several statewide initiatives for community college students also help lessen education costs. For example, grants made under the Re-Employing Virginians (REV) program provide assistance to qualifying students who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Get Skilled, Get a Job, and Get Ahead (G3) program provides funding for Virginians who are seeking training for in-demand careers in fields with high-value wages. The FastForward Credential Program provides funding to cover two-thirds of the cost of attending short-term training programs that prepare students to embark on career pathways in a wide variety of technical fields.

In addition, approximately 250 students each semester receive aid through the SVCC Foundation. These local scholarships support students at a wide range of levels, from moderate help in paying for textbooks and supplies, to major assistance that covers full tuition. Awards are based on diverse criteria, such as program of study, county of residence, year in school, and academic performance.

Funding for these scholarships comes from the generosity of alumni, employees, organizations, companies, and others in the region who understand the value of education and training for as many people in our service area as possible.

Long time SVCC board member Lisa Tharpe, and her husband Tim Tharpe of J.R. Tharpe Trucking have an established a track record of aiding students in SVCC’s Truck Driver Training program. Tharpe explains, “The Truck Driver Training Program is a valuable resource to our company. Support of this program and its students is a great investment in our future workforce.”

One thing students at SVCC do not receive is debt. National statistics regarding federal student loan obligations suggest that many college students leave the classroom with staggering amounts of debt. The credit rating agency Experian reported that the aggregate amount of outstanding student debt at the end of 2020 was nearly $1.6 trillion, with an average individual student balance of $38,792. Instead of contributing to this burden, SVCC chooses to help students find sources of funding that do not have to be repaid. As a result, the federal student loan amount encumbered at SVCC by our graduates is $0. That’s right, zero.

I invite you to maximize the benefit of your education dollars. Visit www.southside. edu for links to more information about SVCC’s programs of study, enrollment options, and financial aid availability. Again, SVCC tuition is a good deal and a great investment.

DR. QUENTIN R. JOHNSON is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans 10 counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@ southside.edu.