If Fredericksburg parents ask local financial executive Ron Holmes for advice on how to help their children get a college education or workforce training, they can expect a three-word answer: Virginia's community colleges.
Facts about Virginia's Community Colleges
• Most Virginians live within a 30-minute drive of a community college campus.
• There are 23 community colleges in Virginia, located on 40 campuses across the state.
• The Virginia Education Wizard has answers about college education, careers and more: www.vawizard.org
• Graduates of Virginia's Community Colleges can take advantage of guaranteed transfer agreements that the VCCS holds with more than 30 public and private universities in the Commonwealth.
• 90 percent of students that attend community colleges will stay in the community to work.
• 3 out of 5 of Virginia's public undergraduate college students are enrolled in one of Virginia's Community Colleges.
• More than 11,000 employers are served through workforce programs at Virginia's Community Colleges.
• Over 25,000 high school juniors and seniors earn college credit while in high school through dual enrollment courses at Virginia's Community Colleges.
• Virginia's Community Colleges served more than 405,000 people last year in academic and workforce programs.
Holmes, a vice president of wealth management and senior financial advisor with Merrill Lynch/Bank of America in Fredericksburg, serves as secretary on the board of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, the supporting arm for the Virginia Community College System. He's also an ardent champion for the outstanding education that students of all ages can receive at any of the 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses across the Commonwealth.
"Community colleges are a viable and affordable alternative for everyone, whether they've just graduated from high school, or have been working for several years and want to change careers, or if someone wants to get additional training to enhance job skills," states Holmes, who helped raise awareness and funding for the scholarship program at Germanna Community College for many years before becoming involved with the VCCS.
"Virginia is so blessed to have one of the best community college systems in the U.S.," he said. "Each year, our community colleges are turning out thousands of degreed and certified students who are highly trained and ready for the workforce. We have no trouble finding job placement for our graduates."
According to Holmes, Virginia's Community Colleges offer a great deal that many students—and their parents—may not be aware of. He noted that community college graduates could take advantage of guaranteed transfer agreements that the VCCS holds with more than 30 public and private universities across the state. Plus, there's a wealth of curriculum, allowing students to try out a variety of potential career options.
Holmes also encourages students and families to explore the many scholarship opportunities that are available for community college students. For example, the prestigious Valley Proteins Fellows program for second-year students is valued at approximately $15,000 for professional development, travel and cultural opportunities, along with tuition, fees and books. The Fellows also volunteer 80 hours of community service during the academic year to develop their leadership skills.
"I've seen extraordinary examples of student achievement coming out of the community college system," said Holmes, referring to the Valley Proteins Fellows and other scholarship recipients.
In addition, the state's community colleges offer an excellent return on investment for any businesses that contribute funding to the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education. "The community college system has a far-reaching effect on the state's economic prosperity through the increase of a skilled labor pool for businesses as well as service providers such as nursing and automotive technicians, among many others," said Holmes, adding that Virginia's Community Colleges are putting out more nursing students than all other educational institutions in the state combined.
For more information on the Virginia Community College System, visit www.myfuture.vccs.edu. The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, www.vccs.edu/Foundation, seeks to guarantee financial assistance to all students who dream of attending college.