Virginia county pays community college tuition with savings from releasing jail inmates

The school’s scholarship fund increased by $275,000 because of the county’s savings.

County students at Southwest Virginia Community College are having their tuition paid for after Tazewell County cut costs by closing jails during the pandemic.

As jails have closed and inmates have been freed during the coronavirus pandemic, one Virginia county is using the savings to give students free tuition.

According to WRC-TV, Tazewell County, Virginia has saved as much as $275,000 from releasing inmates from regional jails and will reallocate those funds to a scholarship program at Southwest Virginia Community College. The Washington, D.C. local news outlet said the community college previously pledged to pay the tuition of county students in the summer and the upcoming fall semester.

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“The Southwest Virginia Community College Scholarship Program fund was increased from $40,000 to $315,000 using the $275,000 savings from the regional jail expense decrease,” County Administrator Eric Young said. “This fulfilled the board’s pledge earlier this month to continue to provide the scholarships with local funds after the state deferred its earlier funding of the program.”

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The SVCC website says a full 12-15 credit semester at SVCC costs between $1,848 and $2,772, meaning the fund could theoretically fund the tuition of over 100 students.

Charlie Stacy, Board of Supervisors Chair, said the county was committed to helping pay for students’ tuition.

“I personally feel a moral obligation to the 2019 students who were in the program and am starting to feel the same for the 2020 kids who made plans in accordance with this program,” he said.

A private donor reportedly agreed to match up to $50,000 but it was not immediately clear whether that is in addition to the $315,000 allocation or included in that amount.

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