Local Commentary

Senator Whipple

It’s hard to think of anything other that the tragedy at Virginia Tech. We think our campuses are going to be safe, protected places where our children can learn and grow and make the transition from home to the real world. The deaths at Tech were only too real and shocking for that university community and for all of us in the Commonwealth. Our hearts go out to the families, students, faculty and staff and we will surely be thinking of them in the days and weeks to come.

Perhaps this is the week to talk about some good news in higher education.

The Two-Year College Transfer Grant Program adopted by the General Assembly this year will provide grants of up to $2000 per year to residents of Virginia who have successfully completed an acceptable associate degree program at a public two-year institution of higher education and who then enroll in a Virginia four-year public college or university the following fall. The student must have applied for financial aid and have financial need. So a student in our area with financial need who gets an A.A. degree at Northern Virginia Community College will have assistance with the higher tuition at George Mason, for example. This should provide a real incentive to many students and help open the door to a four-year degree.

A bill was introduced that would have provided tuition grants to any Virginia student who completes their Associate degree with a 3.0 grade point average or higher, but that bill failed to pass this year.

Reduced tuition will also be made available to certain members of the military. This legislation provides that active duty military, including National Guard or Reserves, who are assigned to a work station in Virginia, and residing in Virginia, can pay in-state tuition. Further, spouses and children of members of the National Guard who are killed in the line of duty will received free tuition and the payment of fees at any public institution of higher education in Virginia.

Another bill allows instate tuition for a person who is enrolled in a Virginia institution who lives out-of-state but within a 30-mile radius of a Virginia community college, provided his state of residence has a reciprocal arrangement for Virginia residents.

All of these bills are designed to improve the accessibility and affordability of higher education in Virginia. While there is much more to be done, I think we made some real progress this year.

On another higher education topic, Delegate Al Eisenberg of Arlington is patron of a bill that requires the governing board of each institution of higher education to develop and implement policies that advise students, faculty and staff, including residence hall staff, of the proper procedures for identifying and addressing the needs of students who exhibit suicidal tendencies or behavior. Suicide is a leading cause of death of young people so it merits special attention.