Ed leaders praise passage of 'free' community college bill

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FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- State lawmakers passed a bill that higher education officials in the state call a game changer.

It was the first one West Virginia senators introduced this session and it had bipartisan support from the beginning.

It aims to change the way West Virginians approach community college, particularly with their wallets.

Senate Bill 1 provides free tuition in West Virginia's community colleges, including locally at the Pierpont Community and Technical College.

It passed near the end of the legislative session after moving through the legislative amendment process.

The bill also establishes advanced education programs between public high schools and those higher-ed institutions.

"This is going to create an opportunity where we can put more people in the pipeline on the path to getting a degree, and more importantly, connecting them to a pipeline of success," said Pierpont CTC President Dr. Johnny M. Moore. "What the state has done is say if you have aspirations to further your education, we're going to provide you an opportunity to do just that."

The budget bill passed last week provides 10 million dollars in funding for a last-dollar-in program, meaning students can receive state funds after grants and scholarships were accounted for.

Students have to submit to drug tests to receive funds. They also need to complete community service and maintain a 2.0 grade point average.

Marion County Technical Center Principal Ray Frazier is looking forward to the opportunities that the program will provide his students.

"That's our goal - We want to place them post-secondary to further their skills or so they can go right into the workforce," Frazier said. "This is something that can take away some of those roadblocks that were there previously."

Students who receive funding also have to commit to working and living in the state for two years - what president Moore says is a significant component of the bill.

Students can fill out their FAFSA forms now to see how much aid they can receive.

The full bill is available in 'Related Links' - Below on mobile, to the right on desktop.