Lawmakers discuss need to revamp community college system

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) —  A new report from JLARC is shedding light on some of the issues facing the state’s community college system. It’s the state’s first comprehensive look at Virginia’s community college system since 1991.

Some of the major issues the report found are that two-thirds of students are not getting a certificate or degree, less students are signing up for courses, and those that are attending aren’t getting the training employers are looking for.

“The first thing we have to do is do a much better job of talking to employers about what’s out there, what are the needs, and make sure those credentials are going for that,” said Speaker Designee Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.

Cox says the state invested about $12.5 million into giving students credentials for high priority jobs, but those credentials aren’t filling needed positions. His other big concerns are that students not getting credit for dual enrollment courses at four-year colleges and universities costing students more money and more time.

“We have to have an understanding among our four years especially that you’re going to do everything you can to help that kid,” said Cox.

“Our focus is specifically on workforce development,” said Dr. William Fiege with John Tyler Community College.

Fiege says he welcomes the report. He says it will only make community colleges stronger.

“That’s going to help students attain the education they need to get some of the careers that they desire,” said Fiege.

He says while JTCC has seen an increase in enrollment and graduation, there’s still work to be done.

“How do we find out what that individual student wants to do, how do we put the resources, time, staff, faculty into it in order for them to be successful,” said Fiege.

Meanwhile, Cox says it shouldn’t be decades before the system is reviewed again.

“You shouldn’t have any big agency or whatever go 15 or 20 years without a look. Probably should be at least updates to those looks every 5 to 10 years,” said Cox.

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