Great success at the community college level

Published 11:33 am Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Earlier this year, I reported that the skills training program at our community colleges and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center appeared to be accomplishing our goal. Governor McAuliffe came to Fort Pickett where Southside Virginia Community College held its graduation of another class of Power Line Worker Program graduates. This brought the total to date to more than one hundred who have entered the program and passed certification.

Last week, I was recognized by the Community College System for my leadership in getting this fast-track training program created and funded. At this point, we know that more than 7,000 students have achieved certification in programs that match critical opportunities with trained potential employees. The linesman program is just one, but it was awarded as the best to date.

When we return to Richmond next month, we will have the facts of what those completers’ incomes were prior to these training programs and their incomes afterward. The income levels will give proof needed to continue and expand it. Many have moved from marginal employment to starting pay two or three times higher. In just about every case, once certified, they found good jobs quickly. This success will have paid for itself in greater state income tax and, therefore, justifies expansion to more training programs and less need for state assistance.


Last week, I wrote about the challenges rural Virginia will face in the coming sessions of the General Assembly. The ouster of delegates who understand the issues that face the less-populated parts of the state will require time and energy explaining the differences of the various regions. No greater issue is education.

The counties of Fairfax, Prince William and Loudon have more students than 109 counties and cities combined. Therefore, the department of education will focus on the issues of those three counties unless those smaller 109 jurisdictions agree to work together for their common good. They not only span from the Eastern Shore to Southwest Virginia, but also to edges of Northern Virginia. Over the course of the summer and fall, there have been efforts to bring together some counties in Southern and Southwest Virginia. No one has focused on the fact that it will require an outreach to far more of the state. An example of the problem can be seen in the situation of transporting students. When counties have the population density of Fairfax and its adjoining neighbors, the cost of bus routes is spread among many students per mile. In much of the state, buses cover far more miles, and they are only partially filled, driving up the cost per student in moving students to school and home.

When we studied the cost of education in relationship to the cost to taxpayers in each jurisdiction almost two decades ago, research showed the pain of individual tax per household was roughly the same across the state at 5 percent of family income. However, the big difference between the richer and poorer counties and cities was family income and the value of homes that are taxed in localities. The higher wages and more expensive homes of Northern Virginia allows those counties to spend far more on education. Adding such things as the transportation situation negatively effects the options of poorer communities. In the 20 years since that study was completed, the gap has grown much worse. This leaves it much tougher for our schools to compete. We will be challenged.

Frank Ruff represents Charlotte County in the state senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@