House passes bills to make college more affordable

After SchoolThe Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday passed legislation to make college more affordable for Virginia students.

House Bill 1692, sponsored by Del. Nick Rush (R-Montgomery) gives students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields the option of a more affordable “flat-fee degree.” Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) sponsored legislation that establishes a new cooperative bachelor’s degree program in Virginia that lets students earn a bachelor’s degree for a total of $16,000 through the use of online, community college, or public or private college or university courses.

Speaking about the flat-fee degree bill that passed the House today, Del. Nick Rush said, “The cost of higher education for years has risen faster than students’ ability to pay for it. The flat-fee degree gives students the option to pay less when they pursue a degree in a high-demand field. This will mean more Virginians trained in skills they can immediately put to use in the workforce. With the Governor’s signature on this legislation, students and families in Virginia will have a new path to an affordable college education.”

“My legislation would establish a new $4,000 per year bachelor’s degree program in Virginia that could be completed through online, community college, college or university courses,” said Del. Ben Cline. “This new offering would help Virginia families access a college education who may have otherwise found it unaffordable. We’re proud of Virginia’s universities that regularly rank among the best in the nation, and this legislation will help more Virginians access that world-class education.”

Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico) said, “The House bills passed today give Virginians more affordable options for higher education, make our colleges and universities more responsive to the labor market, and make Virginia a better place to grow or start a business.”

Background on HB 1692 (Rush): The legislation, introduced by Del. Nick Rush (R-Montgomery), gives public, four year, higher education institutions in Virginia an incentive to offer a “Flat-Fee Degree,” or discounted tuition and reduced fees for students seeking degrees that prepare them for employment in high-demand fields.

To receive discounted tuition and reduced fees, students will be required to commit to a degree program early in their academic endeavors and to finish within four years. These students will get the benefit of a degree that prepares them for a high-demand field. The bill would include the flexibility to recognize that high-demand employment sectors today may not be the same as those 10 or 20 years in the future. Today, for example, it could include training in growth employment sectors such as nursing and business administration or difficult-to-staff fields, such as teaching and public administration. The criteria for “in-demand” degrees would be established by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

The legislation gives Colleges and Universities an incentive to offer the optional flat fee degree. Each student pursuing a flat fee degree will count one and a half times for the purpose of enrollment growth, funding guidelines, degree completion and other criteria as set out in the bill.

Background on HB 2320 (Cline): HB 2320 establishes a degree program whereby an undergraduate student in Virginia may complete, through the use of online, community college, or public or private college or university courses, the course credit requirements to receive a bachelor’s degree at a tuition cost not to exceed $4,000 per academic year, or a total of $16,000.

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