FILE - The University of Virginia

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville

(The Center Square) – Virginia colleges and universities could have more funding for financial aid to students per a budget item proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday.

The governor’s proposal would allocate $111 million in additional funding for higher education institutions to increase financial aid access to low- and moderate-income undergraduate students. The proposal includes $100 million for public institutions through the State Council for Higher Education and $11 million for private institutions through the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant program.

Funding would be provided with federal funds given to the government through the American Rescue Plan.

“The economic uncertainty of this pandemic has led many to question whether a college degree was still an affordable reality,” Northam said in a statement. “Our Administration has worked hard to make higher education accessible to every Virginian, and this targeted investment represents a significant stride towards that goal. Increasing access to financial aid will help create more equitable pathways to opportunity and put a world-class education within reach of even more students.”

Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said in a statement that the funding is critical.

“In order for Virginia to be the best-educated state in the nation, we must continue to invest in financial aid and improve access to affordable higher education,” Qarni said. “It is critical that we dedicate federal relief funds to build on our past investments in financial assistance and bolster our education and talent pipelines.”

The governor also proposed $10 million to improve the Online Virginia Network, which provides online classes and degrees through several public colleges and universities.

Virginia’s colleges and universities will also receive $833 million collectively from the American Rescue Plan, which was earmarked in the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

Lawmakers will meet Aug. 2 to consider the governor’s budget revisions concerning the federal money. House Democrats will not allow committee amendments in an attempt to speed up the process, which received criticism from Republican House leaders and Democratic Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.