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Students Advocate for Community Colleges in Richmond

Southwest Virginia Community College (Southwest) students visited the State Capitol in Richmond to advocate to state legislators the importance of community colleges on February 14th and 15th, 2024.

Meeting with State Senators Travis Hackworth and Todd Pillion, along with State Delegates Will Morefield and Israel O’Quinn, the students, who are part of the Honors College at Southwest, highlighted the achievements and challenges of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), which represents about 46% of the undergraduate public student population in Virginia.

They also discussed the critical role of VCCS in the state’s educational and economic landscape, serving 230,000 students through traditional and workforce credentialing programs.

The delegation from Southwest was welcomed and recognized from the floor of the House of Delegates by Del. Will Morefield. While meeting with state leaders, students discussed the financial challenges community colleges face, being Virginia’s lowest-funded higher education institutions. They also discussed the importance of having affordable high-quality educational options in southwest Virginia.

Students speak with Sen. Travis Hackworth.
Students speak with Sen. Travis Hackworth.
Students speak with Del. Israel O’Quinn (center, standing).
Students in the galley area at the House of Delegates in Richmond.
Students with Del. Will Morefield
Students take a picture with Del. Will Morefield (seated) before he introduces and welcomes the group from the floor of the House of Delegates.

“This visit provided state leaders with a valuable opportunity to listen directly to our students, who shared their ambitions, aspirations, and how Southwest is propelling them forward,” said Tommy Wright, President of Southwest Virginia Community College.

The students advocated for increased funding and support for Virginia’s Community College System, the largest higher education network in the Commonwealth with 23 colleges. In meetings with state leaders, they emphasized the vital role of community colleges like Southwest in providing accessible education and training, especially in the southwestern part of the state.

Students and staff with Sen. Todd Pillion
Students and staff with Sen. Todd Pillion (far right).

“Our trip to Richmond highlights the financial rationale for backing Virginia’s Community Colleges. Every dollar allocated to our students results in $5.70 in their future earnings, demonstrating that funding community colleges transcends educational purposes to become an economic strategy, readying a competent workforce for Virginia,” said Wright.

In addition to legislative meetings, the students toured the Capitol and the Virginia Supreme Court, showcasing the comprehensive educational experience offered by the Honors College at Southwest. This program challenges academically prepared students through academic excellence, research, service/leadership, and experiential learning opportunities. Students from the General Studies/Transfer and the Advanced Manufacturing Honors College participated in the Richmond visit. These students are enrolled in various programs, including nursing, trades programs such as electrical and precision machining, general studies/transfer, human services, and direct transfer students who will start at Southwest and enter doctorate programs once they graduate, such as optometry or pharmacy.

Dr. David Doré speaks with students inside the Capitol.
Chancellor Dr. David Doré, head of all 23 Virginia Community Colleges, speaks with students inside the Capitol during their visit.
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