On Monday, March 2, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a roundtable at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) with students, faculty, and Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glenn DuBois along with the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Workforce, Dr. Lori Dywer to discuss workforce development requirements, the need for a Short Term Pell Grant program and the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Dr. Anne Kress, President of NOVA and Dr. Annette Haggray, Provost of the NOVA Alexandria campus as well as students welcomed the participants and offered educational perspectives.
As Congress rewrites the Higher Education Act, Kaine’s top priority is including his bipartisan Jumpstart Our Businesses By Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, legislation to help students access training for the 7.3 million vacant jobs that are unfilled in part due to a shortage of qualified workers. The Chancellor unveiled a report highlighting the need for Kaine’s JOBS Act to be enacted so students in short-term job training programs will be eligible for Pell Grants. Kaine also talked about legislation he introduced last month to launch a community college and career training grant program to address the need for additional support services to help students finish their training and education.
Highlighted in Chancellor Glenn Dubois’ report was an analysis of pre- and post-credential wages for individuals who have earned short-term credentials at community colleges. It shows short-term certificate programs yield not only immediate earning increases but also better earnings for years afterwards. Individuals who finished the programs at community colleges in Virginia and Louisiana earned $6,180 to $6,716 more over the year after completion. In Colorado, individuals who completed short-term certificate programs at community colleges continued to see sustained median wage gains five and ten years after earning a short-term credential (increases of $8,963 and $13,252, respectively).
Kaine has consistently pushed for reforms – like the JOBS Act – to benefit working students who would then contribute back to the economy. “What we’ve set out a long time ago is we really want to focus on the roles of community colleges and high-quality career and technical education. We all need high-quality skills after high school … whether it’s high-quality career and tech, community college with a pathway to the workforce, community college with a pathway to a four year,” said Senator Kaine. “We want to not only get students to college but through college. We have a bill called the ACCESS to Careers Act that I filed with Todd Young of Indiana… The ACCESS to Careers Act is very much about what are the support services that should be provided to students as they are going through community college.”
The ACCESS to Careers Act would offer further support services — counseling, childcare, transportation and other non-instructional services to students. Currently about 1/3 of NOVA students face food and housing insecurity, said Dr. Anne Kress. In October 2019, NOVA held a ‘Student Needs Symposium’ to facilitate a collective conversation on the needs of students and the barriers they face. NOVA, one of the nation’s most diverse institutions, looks forward to continuing the conversation so that all students can succeed.
Given that Northern Virginia has a high demand for health and technology workers, NOVA was represented by an array of students who spoke about their backgrounds. These students and their peers across the nation would be the biggest benefactors of reforms like the JOBS Act. NOVA students such as returning bachelor’s degree holder, Sadaf, sought to retrain in a three-month patient care program that would work around her current job schedule. She looks forward to a time when a woman like herself would have financial aid for this short-term program. Another student, Jade, who is a military spouse with five kids, would need the flexibility of an expedited program in the technology sector so she can fulfill her dream of being a cloud architect or dev ops engineer. These students would be able to gain the resources they need to support themselves, their families and the community.
“We hear our students. We’ve known the anecdotes – we’ve seen that 70% of our students have dependents, the average age is 36, most are hardworking people with jobs. This means better, meaningful employment. That means a schedule so you can be a better parent. It’s predictable,” said Dr. Lori Dywer.
For questions on Tim Kaine’s policies, please contact Katie Stuntz, Press Secretary at Katie_Stuntz@kaine.senate.gov. For any NOVA education program questions, please contact Hoang Nguyen, Public Information Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.