New Virginia legislation increases access to education for residentsVirginia Governor Bob McDonnell recently announced that the state will expand the number of seats for residents who are seeking an education at one of the region's colleges, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Over the next 15 years, the new legislation plans to increase the number of degrees awarded within the state by 100,000. Lawmakers told the news source that the University of Virginia expects to open 1,000 seats for in-state students this year.

The legislation will endorse the use of school facilities year-round, more online courses and degree programs, which are designed to help students to graduate and enter into the workforce faster. For instance, the University of Virginia will allow enrollees to earn both a bachelors and masters degree in four years beginning this year.

State officials added that public and private colleges will receive enrollment-based funding that will enable them to increase access to education to residents. Legislators are also seeking to connect degree programs with careers in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The U.S. News and World Report reports that enrollment in online programs has increased by approximately 832 percent to more than 2 million students over the past nine years.

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