Free community college? How this solution is working for in-demand industries

The price of college can often be daunting. Thousands of dollars spent on tuition, books, and food can result in mounting student debt.

But what if we told you that it is possible to go for free? We work for you to explain why focusing on the most in-demand industries could be the answer.

In Virginia, Thanh Nguyen, a medical assistant at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, was told by a Western Community College advisor about the so-called G3 program, which could support her passion for helping people.

“When I see the nurse taking care of the patient, I really want to be one of them,” she said.

The program can be used at any of Virginia’s 23 community colleges for specific programs in five of the most in-demand industries: early childhood education, healthcare, information technology, public safety, and trades.

Within each of these industries there are different programs from which they can qualify. For example, Virginia Western has nine different degrees in healthcare, including Nursing, Radiation Oncology, Surgical Engineering, Physical Therapy Assistant, and Medical Laboratory Engineering.

The G3 program helps in two ways. It helps employers find the people they need to run a business, but it also helps students pay for college.

The goal is to provide a pipeline of qualified employees in these high-demand areas.

“I just wanted to change. I wanted to do something different,” said Latrice Hilton, an adult learner who found the opportunity she needed by getting into medical coding through the G3 program. “This is an opportunity for me. Even though I work and have other commitments, it opens a door for me to excel in the areas I want to excel in.”

There are similar programs in other states.

In Texas, there is a free online learning program called Metrix Learning, created by the Texas Workforce Commission, that offers more than 5,000 courses to learn or improve a skill.

Florida has several opportunities for people to get free training that are listed on

The Michigan Learning & Education Advancement Program was created in this state thanks to a federal grant that allows job seekers to take advantage of short- and medium-term tailored training.

The ultimate goal is that program participants are trained for high-skilled, high-paying jobs.


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