State agencies, community colleges offer help to Virginia College students

HUNTSVILLE, Ala - Two weeks ago, Virginia College students in Huntsville found out their school was closing on December 18, leaving all students unable to graduate. But the Department of Labor wants these students to know they don't have to let their education stop there.

A meeting was held for students Wednesday at the Alabama Career Center on Sparkman Drive.

Along with representatives from the Alabama Career Center, officials from community colleges in the area also came to the event to explain how credits can transfer and options for students. They also offered help for former Virginia College employees.

There wasn't an empty seat at the career center conference room as Virginia College students crossed their fingers for a glimmer of light at the end of this dark tunnel of disappointing news.

"When they first told us, I almost got teary-eyed because I was so close to getting done," former student, Hannah Williams said.

Representatives from area community colleges were at the meeting. They acknowledged there could be difficulty transferring, but offered other avenues to get credits - like a prior learning assessment. They also told students about a federal grant called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, also known as the WIOA Program.

"Most of your programs that you were doing at Virginia College, medical assistant, any of your health care things, WIOA will pay for it," Calhoun Outreach Advisor, Doug Brazier.

Officials from the career center say the WIOA Program will offer up to $19,000 to pay for two years of school. They also received information about how to get their Virginia College loans discharged.

Students weren't the only people in attendance affected by the closure, former employees were also invited to the meeting, who were given two days notice their jobs were ending. Deanna McAuliffe said it's been "pretty devastating" as a single parent to have to look for a job every day at Christmas time.

They all say this meeting gave them hope as work to move forward.

"People actually care about our education. It shows that you know we're not the only ones fighting for this," former student, Raqueal Hamlett said.

The Alabama Community College System has set up a website to help answer questions and provide links to resources for Virginia College students.

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