Research shows that 42 percent of students are likely to withdraw from college due to lack of finances. Most Virginia Western students work more than 20 hours per week. To complicate matters, the cost of higher education continues to rise, with state support for community colleges falling to just 44 percent this year. In the next few years, community college students can expect a five-to-seven percent increase in tuition.
Establishing a region-wide CCAP would help eliminate the real and perceived financial barriers to a college education for our children.
In the next ten years, 68 percent of new jobs created will require postsecondary training/education beyond high school, but will require less than a four-year degree. Virginians who earn an associate's degree will earn $9,100 more per year-$264,000 in additional lifetime earnings. They will also contribute more taxes to the region and add to the vitality of the area. Virginia Western has guaranteed transfer agreements to Virginia four-year colleges and universities. A student's earning power dramatically increases with each degree earned, opening the door to sustainable career possibilities and a better quality of life. A college education is essential to earning a living wage.
Our teenagers who see no hope for a college education often lose their academic drive early in their high school careers and drop out of school before they graduate. For example, the current on-time graduation rate of Roanoke City Schools is 67 percent. This means that 1/3 of Roanoke City students are essentially destined for poverty. Almost all of those who do not graduate will stay in the area, negatively impacting the quality of the region's workforce.
To grow our regional economy, we must attract viable businesses to our region. Businesses wishing to locate to our region need skilled workers. A student participating in the Community College Access Program has the opportunity to earn any of the 70 associate degrees and certificates Virginia Western offers and to transfer to a four-year college or complete career tracks for skilled laborers in industries that pay well, such as healthcare, business and technology. Moreover, the Community College Access Program is an incentive for our young people to remain in the area, since 85 percent of Virginia Western graduates stay in the region. By sending our children to college, we are ensuring a better-trained workforce for our region. We will change our future.