Free community college breaks barriers to higher education

Raleigh County
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Just a over a month after Governor Jim Justice signed the free community college tuition bill, applications for the program are now open.

The Community and Technical College system recently launched a website where students can learn how to receive the funds.

For students like Hayden Dunagan, the prospect of free tuition could be life changing. 

“Most people my age are having a hard time trying to afford it, with jobs and all that, so I think it’s a good thing, a really good thing,” Dunagan said.

The state senate unanimously approved the free community college program, WV Invests, during this years legislative session. Now, students can apply to receive grant money to cover their tuition. 

President of New River Community and Technical College, Bonny Copenhaver, said the free tuition comes with a few conditions.

“You have to have lived in the state of West VIrginia for one year, you have to have graduated high school or hold a GED, you have to fill out your federal financial aid fom and the application form,” said Copenhaver. “You do have to pass a drug screen for every semester that you’re in the program.”

Copenhaver said the grant only covers programs that directly lead to jobs, such as nursing and computer science. She said the grant is geared toward helping both high school graduates, and adult students.

“Any time that you get people to come back to school, complete their education, and be able to qualify for a better job, life gets better for your communities and your system,” Copenhaver said. “A lot of our graduates, the majority of them in fact, will stay in the state of West Virginia to work, and that increases the economic prosperity of this region.”

Dunagan said people in his town do not have many options after high school, but the grant gives them a chance at a better life. 

“It’s not a very wealthy community,” said Dunagan. “With the free college it allows kids to do what they want to do rather than what they have to do.”

Students need to apply for the grant online at the WV Invests website. They also will need to fill out their FAFSA, which you can also find on the WV Invest Grant’s website.

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