President Johnny Moore Reacts to Free Community College Bill | Pierpont C&TC

President Johnny Moore Reacts to Free Community College Bill

President Johnny Moore Reacts to Free Community College Bill

President Johnny Moore Reacts to Free Community College Bill
 
FAIRMONT – The West Virginia Senate has unanimously passed Senate Bill 284, which would make community college tuition free for students who meet requirements. For community colleges themselves, this bill would be a game changer in terms of enrollment and student potential, as a primary goal, at least for Pierpont Community and Technical College, is to provide an affordable education to those who seek it.
 
“It provides an opportunity to remove barriers from individuals to pursue higher education,” Dr. Johnny M. Moore, president of PCTC, said. “Community colleges are the best vehicle, the best-prepared institutions to handle that because that’s why we were designed originally.”
 
In his experience leading PCTC, Moore has noticed a shift in the workforce where individuals need more education and further training than they did in the past. Seeing other states having already adopted a bill or methodology to make in-state community college tuition free, Moore believes now is the best time for West Virginia to follow suit, especially looking at the changing workforce landscape.
 
“If you start looking at reports, it says within the next decade, about 70 percent of jobs are going to demand skillsets beyond high school,” he said. “Certifications, certificates, Associate’s degrees, we’re trying to get ahead of that, and trying to make sure that we are competitive as a state.”
 
While federal student financial aid is available to PCTC students and can potentially cover the entire cost of its tuition, Moore said the steps needed to get to that point can sometimes be too much for some individuals. While the proposals in Bill 284 have some requirements for students to earn free tuition, Moore feels the promise of free community college will entice more individuals to make an attempt.
 
“We as a state leave a lot of monies on the table because a number of our students are not filling out for federal dollars,” Moore said. “If you step back and look at the overall big view, it is to provide educational opportunities for people who otherwise would not go. That’s basically what that bill is doing.”
 
According to Moore, the requirements for free tuition proposed in Bill 284 include a certain amount of community service as well as drug testing for those interested. He said these requirements make it easy for just about anyone wanting to get a degree at PCTC, as the college sees several non-traditional students enter its doors. There are several pathways to be successful, and that’s what we offer at community colleges,” Moore said. “Part of our job is to provide opportunities for absolutely everyone – that’s our mission. Part of our role is to find pathways in the appropriate field as to the interest of the person coming in.”
 
With the introduction of this bill to the West Virginia legislature, Moore feels like the state is moving toward a mentality geared more toward the workforce. The options available for education are evolving all the time, and students no longer need to take the same four-year institution route anymore.
 
“It helps us as a state to get out of this one-size-fits-all mindset,” Moore said. “That sort of approach will not work in a 21st-century knowledge-based economy. Today’s economy as I said demands skills beyond high school to penetrate the job market to provide sufficient wages to support a family.”
 
If this bill were to pass and be enacted to law, nothing would really change for the students and faculty of PCTC, according to Moore. He said the only people who have to believe in this bill now are the legislators voting on it, as he believes the benefits in its outcome will open doors for many West Virginians seeking higher education.
 
“I believe this is going to help us get to a point where we can redefine workforce development in such a way to eliminate these one-way pathways,” Moore said. “If anything, it’s going to strongly encourage a number of our students to fill out for the federal aid money.
 
“It’s going to help us create a college-going culture.”
 
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