LOGAN — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College (SWVCTC) announced a pilot program where recipients of Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF) funds will be provided assistance enrolling in higher education, maintaining academic standing and achieving degrees or certificates.
The ultimate goal of the pilot program is to help individuals and families who receive TANF funds achieve independence through higher education and new careers. In the pilot program, the WVDHHR and SWVCTC plan to place at least 18 TANF recipients into a cohort or group and provide them assistance in applying for financial aid and counseling for choosing and maintaining a course of study.
At the official announcement of the pilot program held Thursday Aug. 6 at SWVCTC, DHHR Cabinet Secretary Karen Bowling explained the conception of the pilot program saying, “This is a project that I am very excited about because I believe it brings a great opportunity, not only here at Southern and with the WVDHHR, but potentially across the state. We sat down and said, ‘What can we do to help the people of West Virginia to move toward self-sufficiency?’ We have our challenges in our state, and the governor has really focused on workforce development. We need to think about changing West Virginia. We can’t keep doing things they way we’ve always done them. We need to look for new opportunities and I believe very clearly that this is a new opportunity for the state….”
Former president of SWVCTC and current first lady of West Virginia Joann Tomblin and Secretary Bowling established the pilot program which is uniquely designed for TANF recipients. Bowling spoke of the the idea of placing those who are eligible for the pilot program into a cohort saying, “The idea of putting people together is very meaningful… We know if you have been out of school for a long period of time or you haven’t college there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through. It’s not so easy. Plus, many of our [TANF] recipients have the same types of challenges. Whether it be transportation or need for the need for childcare…when you put people into a cohort, they can bond and talk about it together.”
In order to prepare and further support the continued education of those in the pilot program who may need a refresher, educational boot camps in English and math will be offered at SWVCTC. With the hope of being able to help the people in the pilot program find local employment, prospective employers in the area have also been contacted so counselors at SWVCTC can help those in the program choose a path that leads to a career that is in demand.
Interim SWVCTC president Merle Dempsey added, “I want to reemphasize, not only the fact that this identified cohort of students in this pilot project will have the direct support of a single individual who will help them maneuver through all of the hoops that are necessary to get through such a program, but our entire faculty, staff and administration stands in support of them…”
The pilot program is set to begin in the upcoming Fall semester of 2015.