Senate Bill 1, an updated version of Senate Bill 284 that was passed last year, will be back on the Senate table when the legislative session begins this week. The bill will establish a grant program for West Virginia’s Community and Technical College students.
“We have many, many jobs in West Virginia that go unfilled because of lack of specific training,” West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael told WV Metro News. “This bill, more than any other thing we can go addresses that issue.”
Senate Bill 284 died in the House in February 2018.
State Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, believes that support among both parties is still present.
“We see the value in that community and technical college area and would like to make that much more attainable,” Stollings said. “We all know that education levels the playing field and we need to level the playing field.”
The total cost for the proposed grant program would be less than $10 million and is planned to be between $800 and $1,000 per student each year.
“Without spending this money, it is costing our state an enormous amount of money,” Carmichael added. “Many times they end up in social welfare system or there are drug problems. This is a way to break this cycle of poverty to incentivize student at the high school level to aspire to a degree they can obtain in less than two years and begin an amazing career.
If approved, recipients of the program’s funding are required to submit to drug testing, serve a specific number of community service hours and following graduation or certification receipt, the recipient is required to work in the state of West Virginia for two years. If the student does not work the required time, they must pay the grant that the taxpayer gave to support their education.
“A lot of people that oppose this say you can’t make this free,” he told WV Metro News. “It is not free. There is community service, there is drug testing, there are payback provisions if you don’t stay in state and pay taxes in West Virginia.