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Proposal to use some federal funding to increase financial aid access - CBS19 News

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Associated Press

BLACKSBURG, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Legislative leaders plan to use millions of dollars in federal funding to increase access to financial aid for low- and moderate-income undergraduate students.

Governor Ralph Northam was at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Thursday to announce the plan to use $111 million in American Rescue Plan funding for this.

According to a release, the proposal designates $100 million for public higher education institutions through the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia.

There will also be $11 million for private institutions that are eligible for the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant program.

“The economic uncertainty of this pandemic has led many to question whether a college degree was still an affordable reality,” said Northam. “Our administration has worked hard to make higher education accessible to every Virginian, and this targeted investment represents a significant stride towards that goal. Increasing access to financial aid will help create more equitable pathways to opportunity and put a world-class education within reach of even more students.”

The release says this proposed investment would supplement more than $833 million that will be available to colleges and universities across Virginia through the American Rescue Plan Act's Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III.

Institutions of higher education will get these funds directly, and they must be used for financial assistance for students as well as qualifying institutional purposes.

“In order for Virginia to be the best-educated state in the nation, we must continue to invest in financial aid and improve access to affordable higher education,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “It is critical that we dedicate federal relief funds to build on our past investments in financial assistance and bolster our education and talent pipelines.”

The proposal would also commit $10 million to enhance the Online Virginia Network, which facilitates online coursework and degrees from community colleges, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, and James Madison University.

This proposal will be before the General Assembly, which will be gathering for a special session next week.

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