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State Budget Agreement Allows Virginia’s Community Colleges to Continue Providing Affordable Access to Higher Education 

~ Community Colleges are the Lowest-Funded Higher Education Institutions in Virginia ~ 

RICHMOND, Va. – Recognizing the additional funding approved by the governor and Virginia General Assembly, the State Board for Community Colleges voted today to limit base tuition increases to three percent for in-state students. A $4.79 per credit hour tuition increase for in-state students (3%) will go into effect in the fall semester for the 2024-2025 academic year. 

“We are committed to providing affordable access to high quality programs for Virginians,” said Peggy Layne, chair of the State Board of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “We’re not immune from rising costs, but we are proud that we have been able to maintain tuition rates at about one-third of the average comparable tuition at Virginia’s public four-year universities.” 

The new in-state rate is $163.40 per credit hour, or $2,451.00 for a 15 credit-hour semester. The tuition increase only applies to the tuition and education and general (E&G) fee which covers general operating costs. Note that some colleges have tuition differentials and other mandatory fees covering student activities and auxiliary operations and these vary at the community college level. Check with individual colleges for locally relevant information. 

Virginia’s Community Colleges remain Virginia’s most affordable and accessible pathway to better jobs. Yet, community colleges remain the lowest-funded higher education institutions in Virginia, receiving less than 57 cents for every one dollar that goes to support a full-time equivalent student at a public Virginia university. Additionally, expenditures per full-time 

student at Virginia’s Community Colleges are in the 23rd percentile in the nation, meaning 77% of community colleges across the country spend more per student. 

“Many of our learners have limited financial resources, and inflationary pressures only serve to exacerbate their situation,” said Dr. David Doré, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “But our colleges can and do provide programs that afford life-changing benefits to our learners, such as FastForward, which incentivizes them to complete short-term credential training programs for Virginia’s most in-demand jobs at a fraction of the cost they might otherwise incur. And our G3 tuition-assistance program has proven quite effective in removing many of the financial challenges that Virginia’s learners routinely encounter.” 

Prior to July 2023, Virginia’s Community Colleges had held the same tuition rate for five consecutive years. 

“Never doubt your success.” – Chiara Williams, Commencement Student Speaker

Chiara Williams, a graduate of Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, is graduating from Tidewater Community College with an associate of science in Social Science and will serve as Tidewater Community College’s 78th Commencement Exercise Student Speaker. This fall, Williams plans to continue her education at Old Dominion University to complete her studies in clinical psychology.

Here at TCC, Williams served as the President of the Student Government Association at the Chesapeake Campus. Williams was a Second Year Leader of the Gear Up To Lead Leadership Program, providing guidance and mentorship to first year students. Gear Up allowed Williams to assist the team that led the Elizabeth River clean-up project. 

“Being part of Gear Up taught me how to be a leader. I have said throughout this process that I am most proud of becoming a leader of others as well as myself.”

When the opportunity to become the Commencement Student Speaker came, Williams saw it as a chance for continued growth. 

“This moment will allow me to make a positive impact amongst my peers and hopefully inspire those who come after me. I hope to provide a message of self-worth, growth, and commend those who are celebrating an astounding achievement as I know this journey was not an easy one for most,” said Williams.

Williams was also a member of the TCC Student Art League and was able to support the league while sharing her art with the community. She additionally had the opportunity to be a mentee of the GNC Mentor Program.

During her time at TCC, Williams came to the realization that you should never doubt your success. She saw and learned that there is someone else always wondering how you achieved what you did. She encourages the Class of 2024 to push on and be the example.

A Message to Our Veterans

A message from President Conston

Dear TCC Family,

On Sunday, we remembered the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting in Virginia
Beach. While I was not here during that tragic time, I mourned the loss of those 12 individuals
killed in a senseless act of violence.

Just last week, we witnessed another tragedy in our nation, the death of Mr. George Floyd in
Minneapolis. Like many of you, I am horrified by the circumstances surrounding his death. The
outrage of so many spilling into our streets, manifesting into both peaceful protests and violence,
speaks to the hurt, anger and confusion in our communities. Collectively, their voices seem as
one, crying out for solace, calmness and resolution.

Mr. Floyd’s death occurred in the midst of a pandemic, COVID-19, which has claimed the lives
of more than 377,000 worldwide, 104,000 nationwide, and approaching 1,400 in our own state.
Along with the staggering deaths totals, this relentless virus has devastated our social, economic,
political and educational systems. We are truly navigating unprecedented times and treading in
unchartered waters.

Coming to this community a mere five months ago, I was impressed by your willingness to move
this college forward with new leadership and a renewed focus on student success. In mid-March,
I again applauded your tenacity to transition to remote learning and teleworking in response to
COVID-19. I continue to be inspired by your dedication to tirelessly serving our institution and
students. Your resilience is undeniable.

As President of Tidewater Community College – our institution – I encourage each of you to
stand with one another during these difficult days. Know that I support you, and I urge you to
support each other. Reach out to your colleagues, your friends and mentors. We might be
physically distant, but we are together. Talk to one another, and just as important, listen to each
other. For those in need, support services are available to help.

My message to each of you is one of profound compassion, hope and expectation for brighter
days. Change is long overdue and frustratingly slow, but I am confident that circumstances will
improve. As an institution of higher education, we remain committed to dispelling bigotry and
modeling inclusivity.

I stand beside you in solidarity, with an unwavering resolve to foster a learning environment that
is safe, healthy and welcoming for all.

TCC, Norfolk State working to address racial inequality

By Marcia Conston and Javaune Adams-Gaston

As presidents of two public institutions of higher education in our Hampton Roads region, we stand together in solidarity, committed to making a difference for the African American students we serve.

Like you, we are saddened and outraged by the deaths of unarmed Black citizens at the hands of law enforcement. The names Rayshard Brooks and George Floyd join a list of others — Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Manuel Ellis to name a few. They are African American men and women robbed of a future by a justice system that disproportionately harms them at far higher levels than their white peers.

As African American college presidents, we offer a unique perspective. We feel especially obligated to serve our student populations, certainly with our prayers but more so with a call to action to help eradicate racial injustice, institutionalized racism and inequalities for all marginalized communities. Norfolk State University, one of two public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the commonwealth, boasts five academic colleges, 49 degree programs and more than 5,600 students. Tidewater Community College, the largest provider of higher education and workforce development in southeastern Virginia, serves nearly 28,000 students. African Americans make up 30% of enrollment.

We feel our students’ pain. Many of our students have either led or embraced the social movement determined to raise the consciousness of this country’s leaders focusing on a system of racial inequity. Their voices of despair resonate from the murals that have been etched during the protests on streets in a movement that has spanned the globe.

We stand with them: Black Lives Matter.

As thought leaders in our community, we share a role in eradicating the discrimination that is a plague for young Black men and women who fear the system that is meant to protect them. Black Lives Matter is a refrain to correct multiple system inequities, higher education included.

More African Americans need access to college so they can work toward a certificate, credential or degree that will be their passport to meaningful employment. Examining the diversity of our faculty in all subject areas and revisiting our curricula to ensure they are relevant and current are additional vital priorities.

We must begin by evaluating our criminal justice programs. Law enforcement agencies throughout Virginia — and across the nation — must diversify their ranks to reflect the communities they serve and protect. TCC and Norfolk State can help by producing more qualified job candidates from our respective criminal justice programs.

TCC provides a foundation in criminal justice with specializations in forensic science, homeland security and public law. Norfolk State’s offerings include a graduate program where students can develop specialized skills and expertise for leadership positions. As proud as we are of these programs, we must constantly be aware of the evolving challenges that these students will face upon entering the field. Recruiting minority students into the criminal justice field is paramount.

The transformative changes we are talking about begin on our campuses before our students ever enter the workplace. It is critical to support students inside and outside of the classroom. Our faculty and staff must be more sensitive to the issues that matter. One of them is safety; another is trust. As higher education educators, we recognize that we should take a leading role in the solution to remove the burden that too many of our students experience.

We embrace inclusion and equity for all members of our campuses. Our commitment to the African American students who entrust us with their education is that we will implement change to make a difference, change sustainable for this generation and the ones that come after.

We know our students are depending on us to do that. We will not disappoint.

Marcia Conston, Ph.D., is the president of Tidewater Community College. Javaune AdamsGaston, Ph.D., is the president of Norfolk State University.

TCC Nurse Pinning

President Conston delivered the welcome address at the May 2020 TCC Nurse Pinning, which was held virtually. The pinning ceremony honors and celebrates students of TCC’s Beazley School of Nursing who have completed their Associate of Applied Science in Nursing.

Updates/Organizational Changes

May 8, 2020

Dear TCC Faculty and Staff,

During recent Town Hall meetings, questions were presented about my plans to permanently fill interim positions and potential organizational changes.  I responded that plans, with a focus on ensuring a structure to effectively provide consistent services to all students across the College, were forthcoming.  Based on a comprehensive examination of organizational and student needs, and to ensure college-wide transparency, the following changes will become effective July 1, 2020.

  • Dr. Corey McCray will resume his role as Vice President for Workforce Solutions.
  • Mr. Emanuel Chestnut and Dr. James Edwards will resume their positions as Dean of Students on the Norfolk and Chesapeake campuses respectively.
  • Dr. Michelle Woodhouse will serve as interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer.
  • Dr. Karen Campbell will serve as interim Vice President for Student Affairs.
  • Dr. Michael Summers will serve as Special Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer.
  • Pathway deans will report directly to the Office of Academic Affairs.
  • Deans of Students will provide administrative oversight of their respective campuses and report directly to the Vice President for Student Affairs.  Each dean of students will assume dedicated responsibilities for specified student services functions.  Again, this is to align student services to ensure consistency and accountability across the College.
  • Ms. Heather McCraig will serve as interim Vice President for Finance.

A national search for the above-named interim positions will be conducted in January 2021.

Additionally, a national search will commence immediately to fill the newly reinstated position of Vice President for Institutional Advancement.   

I extend a warm and gracious thanks to colleagues who have served in an interim capacity, and I look forward to the continued success of TCC during this critical time and beyond.  

Thank you.

Dr. Marcia Conston

OP-ED: Tidewater Community College offers hope in crisis

We are amidst an unsettling time when, every day, headlines remind us of soaring unemployment as more businesses close their doors because of COVID-19. Economists expect there will be a recession, if not a depression.

It is at times like this that community colleges offer hope. Across Virginia, our community colleges are open. Classes are in session in a variety of remote formats, and students are enrolling for the summer and fall terms. With the abrupt conclusion of the high school year, we are welcoming seniors from the class of 2020 who are eager to start their college careers. We welcome anyone of any age who is looking to complete their college education, find a new career or earn a credential.

According to our own Virginia Community College System research, for every 1% increase in the unemployment rate, community college enrollment goes up 2%. During the Great Recession a decade ago, as the American economy collapsed, the share of full-time community college students increased from about 41% to 43% nationwide, according to data from the American Association of Community Colleges.

As with community colleges around the country, Tidewater Community College stepped up by expanding programs and capacity to meet employer demands and students’ needs. We opened the Regional Health Professions Center in Virginia Beach, a state-of-the-art Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake, and we relocated our Portsmouth campus to a more accessible area to serve residents in that city.

The challenges moving forward more than a decade later in the world of COVID-19 are different. I am confident that community colleges are equipped to handle these new challenges. As one of my colleagues said recently, “We were ready then, and we’re ready now.”

Throughout their 60 years of existence, community colleges have demonstrated that they are nimble and innovative, responding rapidly to regional and local employer needs. We remain committed to student success regardless of the external environment.

Here are some examples from TCC:

Like most colleges, TCC demonstrated flexibility by quickly pivoting from face-to-face to online and remote instruction. We have learned a great deal about the technological demands and have confronted the reality of the digital divide. You cannot learn remotely if you do not have a computer or WI-FI, a challenge faced by many of our students. Our Computers for Student Success program is working to distribute free desktop and laptop computers with WI-FI cards to students without compromising the health and safety of students or staff.

For now, placement testing has been waived because students cannot come to campuses to take the tests. If your high school senior is adrift with schools closed, TCC advisors will work to ensure they are appropriately placed in classes.

Community colleges offer the best hope for adults who have no or some college credits to retrain, retool and re-enter the workforce. Anyone can start at TCC using online or virtual resources, which include the application, advising and financial aid assistance.

Of course, community colleges remain an affordable option, which is an important consideration for many during this critical time. Three out of five students leave TCC without any student debt, in part due to our low tuition costs. In addition to financial aid, TCC has dozens of scholarships available. We anticipate additional federal dollars weighted toward Pell-eligible students thanks to the recent passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Flexibility will be the hallmark of “a new normal” at Virginia’s Community Colleges. This crisis has shown us how to reduce and eliminate barriers to student enrollment, and how to provide a greater range of instructional and service methods. Community colleges are here to serve. I know the present is tough, but I am also confident that the future — your future — is bright.

Marcia Conston is president of Tidewater Community College.

Op-Ed: Tuition assistance program a ‘game-changer’

As Tidewater Community College’s new president, I would like to tell you why the “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” (G3) initiative, which represents a fraction of Gov. Ralph’s Northam’s proposed $135 billion budget, has my full support.

Hampton Roads already feels like home to me after moving here just a few weeks ago. I am encouraged by the students here, the business leaders in this community and our state legislators in Richmond. I see a positivity that’s contagious along with a commitment to moving forward to sustain our economy and our region.

Here’s how the proposal the governor calls G3 can play a significant role.

The G3 initiative builds upon the commonwealth’s investment in the already successful FastForward workforce training program. Hundreds of success stories, including many from here at TCC, stem from the program, which helps Virginians get jobs at competitive salaries through fast-track credential training.

The G3 plan would expand access and enable low- and middle-income Virginians to “get skilled” or receive workforce training in fields where employers have identified a shortage. We are talking about health care, information technology and computer science, manufacturing and skilled trades, early childhood education and public safety.

The need to fill these “new collar” or middle-skill jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree is immediate. These careers range from cybersecurity specialists to physician’s assistants, electricians to shipbuilders.

The G3 grant program would be open to any Virginia resident who qualifies for in-state tuition and whose family income falls below an identified threshold. The G3 program would be a “last-dollar” plan, meaning students enrolling in a qualifying certificate or degree program must first be eligible for federal financial aid. G3 funds would cover the difference between what financial aid pays and the cost of tuition, fees and books for the program.

We know that a significant part of our population in Hampton Roads would benefit.

I know firsthand how everyday expenses — food, childcare costs and transportation — prohibit many from even considering college.

Accountability is an important component of Northam’s G3 plan. Enrolled students must maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete a certificate in the first year. Upon graduation, they would “give back” through community service or by working in economically depressed areas of Virginia, for a nonprofit or local or state government.

I’m not overselling the G3 proposal when I call it a game-changer. Access to higher education would be expanded to hundreds if not thousands of students who want a better life for themselves and their families.

I spoke with a young woman during my first week here who lives within walking distance of our Norfolk campus. She wants to go to college but doesn’t have the means. When she learned I was the new TCC president, she asked me if it was possible for someone in her situation to earn a certificate in phlebotomy so that she could qualify for a good job to secure a future for herself.

The G3 plan will help individuals such as her. She’s one student, but we know from our research that thousands of others are eager to make a similar investment in themselves if the pathway existed for them to do it.

The governor’s office estimates that students enrolled in any of the five programs can increase their wages by 60%. Meanwhile, the state benefits by receiving double the amount in state taxes. That’s a win-win. A higher-skilled workforce would make our state more attractive to businesses.

At TCC, we would be better equipped to serve more students who would, in turn, give back to the commonwealth. Half the states around the country have enacted programs to make community college more affordable and accessible, including our neighbors in Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia.

I hope Virginians will have the same opportunity.

Marcia Conston became Tidewater Community College’s sixth president in January.