A bill that would provide tuition assistance to attend community and technical colleges in West Virginia has passed the Senate.
Senate Bill 1 passed the Legislature’s upper chamber with a unanimous 34-0 vote Wednesday.
The bill would provide the ‘last dollar in’ for in-state students after all other forms of financial aid has been exhausted. Additionally, the bill includes some eligibility requirements. For students to receive the tuition grant, they must complete community service while enrolled in school, successfully pass a drug test prior to each semester and remain in West Virginia for two years following the completion of a program.
Sen. Finance Chairman Craig Blair says the bill is not about entitlement, it’s about investment.
“It allows people like myself to be able to succeed in this state, and businesses to succeed in the state, which helps us have the overall message that we're trying to do - and that is grow the fiscal pie in the state of West Virginia,” Blair said.
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso also spoke in favor of the bill.
“I truly, honestly believe that the education system that we have is the foundation of this country. I believe anything we do to strengthen our higher education system to provide individuals the opportunity to obtain a higher education degree, to obtain a skill or some certification, that gives them the opportunity to work in the workforce can be productive citizens in the state of West Virginia, not only helps our state; it helps families, it attracts businesses, and I applaud the efforts of this body by taking the initiative and putting this bill forth, and I urge all to support the bill,” Prezioso said.
On Tuesday, during the amendment stage of the bill, Sen. Prezioso attempted to amend the bill to include 4-year institutions in the grant program that offer associate degrees. The amendment failed along party lines.
Last session’s version of the “last dollar in” bill also passed the upper chamber unanimously but was not taken up by the House.
This year, new House Speaker Roger Hanshaw has championed the cause of workforce development but has questioned whether focusing on community college is the correct path towards that goal.