CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – In a unanimous, bipartisan vote, the West Virginia Senate voted on Wednesday to help pay the tuitions of students attending any of the state’s nine community and technical colleges.
The students will first secure whatever state and federal grants and scholarships are available, and then the state will pay the remaining balance in a program known as, “Last Dollar In”.
Senate Democrats also wanted to expand the program to four-year colleges, but Republicans say the budget won’t allow more than seven-million dollars right now, but it’s a start.
“You envision a coal miner or someone who has worked in a factory that has been closed. A Macy’s department store worker who needs retraining,” said State Sen. Mitch Carmichael, (R) Jackson – Senate President.
“I just thought we had the opportunity to expand it a little bit more. There are some Associate Degree programs in the four-year regional institutions. Just giving them the opportunity to participate and go to school. You know it helps everybody. It helps families,” said State Sen. Roman Prezioso, (D) Marion – Minority Leader.
But in a sign that passing something is better than nothing, many Democrats showed up for a joint news conference to tout the bill’s passage. They promise to come back next year trying to expand this to four-year colleges because some regions are not served by a community college.
“If there is an Associate Degree program in Glenville, you know that would keep someone from having to drive to Parkersburg or something like that,” said Sen. Ron Stollings, (D) Boone.
Cost is a consideration Republicans say the 7-million dollars is all that’s available right now, but that could change if the state surplus keeps growing.
The Community and Technical College tuition assistance bill passes the Senate unanimously. It now goes to the House for debate and a very uncertain future, as a similar bill never came up last year in the House for a vote.