Free community college? How this solution is working for in-demand industries

Why a focus on the most in-demand industries could be the answer to less student debt

The price tag of college can often be daunting. Thousands of dollars spent on tuition, books and boarding can lead to mounting student debt.

But what if we told you it’s possible to go for free? We’re working for you to explain why a focus on most in-demand industries could be the answer.

In Virginia, Thanh Nguyen, a medical assistant at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, was told by an advisor at Western Community College about something called the G3 program that could aid in her passion to help people.

“When I see the nurse taking care of the patient, I really want to be one of them,” she said.

The program can be used at any of Virginia’s 23 community colleges for designated programs in five of the most in-demand industries: Early childhood education, health care, information technology, public safety and skilled trades.

Within each of those industries, there are different programs they can choose from that qualify. For instance, in health care, there are nine different degrees at Virginia Western, including nursing, radiation oncology, surgical technology, physical therapy assistant and medical lab technology.

The G3 program helps in two ways. It helps employers get the people they need to run a business, but it also helps students pay for college.

The goal is to provide a pipeline of skilled employees in those high-demand areas.

“I just wanted to change. I wanted to do something different,” said Latrice Hilton, an adult learner who found the opportunity she needed, breaking into medical coding through the G3 program. “This is an opportunity for me. Even though I’m working and I have other obligations, it opens up a door so that I can excel in the fields that I want to excel in.”

Similar programs exist in other states as well.

In Texas, there’s free online learning program created by the Texas Workforce Commission called Metrix Learning, which offers more than 5,000 courses to get trained or retrained in a skill.

Florida has multiple options for people to get free training that is listed on

The Michigan Learning & Education Advancement Program has been created in that state thanks to a federal grant, which allows job seekers to take advantage of short and mid-term customized training.

The end goal is for those in the program to be trained for high-skill, high-wage jobs.


About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.