Equipping our Workforce: WV Invests 

May 1, 2024

May is the month filled with graduation celebrations as young adults across the Greenbrier Valley cross over into the next phase of their lives. While there are several paths – college, trade school, military or entering the workforce – equipping students with the right skillset for a promising career is vital. Enter West Virginia Invests, a program that provides free tuition to select, high-demand, certificate and associate degree programs at WV public institutions.

Today 75% of jobs require postsecondary education or training or some kind. Tradesmen, a critical need, require vocational training. Associate degrees fast track others to rewarding career paths in the Greenbrier Valley. But the costs of college and vocational schools can be a barrier. Recognizing an opportunity to invest in our future, and create a more robust workforce, the WV Legislature passed the WV Invests Grant Program in 2019. This program is designed to help West Virginians earn the credentials to land a rewarding career right here without leaving the state. 

West Virginia Invests provides FREE tuition (the full cost of basic tuition and fees) for select certificate and associate degree programs at West Virginia public two-or four-year institutions. Priority is given to programs in high-demand fields, such as information technology or healthcare, as determined by the West Virginia Department of Commerce. This is a last-dollar-in program, meaning that it will pay for any amount up to the total cost of tuition and fees that is not already covered by other state or federal grants or scholarships. 

Ten institutions with 27 campuses provide a broad network of opportunity for WV Invests Grant Seekers. In the Greenbrier Valley, New River Community and Technical College,  a long-standing partner in workforce training and community education, offers more than 40 programs eligible for the West Virginia Invests Grant including: 

  • Automotive and Diesel Service 
  • Technology  
  • Bookkeeping  
  • Mechatronics and Automation 
  • Medical Insurance Billing and Coding 
  • Emergency Medical Services 
  • Practical Nursing 
  • Welding Technology 
  • Computer Science 
  • Medical Laboratory Technician 
  • Hospitality and Tourism Management 
  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) 
  • Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement 
  • Social Services 
  • And more 

This program is not only for those just graduating high school. If you have been a legal resident of WV for at least 1 year immediately before applying with less than 90 or more college credit hours, you may qualify. And you must be willing to “make a commitment to improving the state by living in WV for at least two years”. View more about eligibility here.

You also have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The roll-out of the new form by the US Department of Education, meant to make the process more efficient, has been a troubled one, with more than a few hiccups. Yesterday, the Governor declared a state of emergency for higher education in West Virginia because of the ongoing problems. We are confident a resolution will be found.

While on the subject, there are other innovative programs that fund workforce and support access to higher education – whether that be through college or trade school, such as: 

  • The Promise Scholarships and other state programs to support education and retention of workforce.  
  • The First2 Network works to increase the number of college graduates in STEM fields focusing on rural, first-generation, low-income, and other underrepresented students, making sure all our students can succeed. 
  • Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation’s Our Future Fund: This program starts much earlier than other programs– kindergarten. The goal of this program is to provide college savings accounts for every child in our three counties.  Did you know students with just $500 or less in a dedicated postsecondary savings account are three times more likely to enroll in college or a technical school and four more times likely to graduate? 

We are grateful for these innovative programs that support our students and ensure a more robust workforce. Indeed, West Virginia Invests is aptly named. Our future is brighter when we invest in our greatest asset – our people.