College students studying cybersecurity in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and other cities throughout the state have the chance to apply for a $20,000 scholarship, thanks to a $1 million grant announced by Gov. Terry McAuliffe this week.
The Virginia Cybersecurity Public Service Scholarship Program will give $20,000 a year to eligible Virginia students studying how to safeguard computer networks, data and electronic resources, a release said. However, recipients must work agree to go into public service afterward, by working at a Virginia state agency or institution for as many years as they receive the scholarship.
“Due to the strong military presence, we have a significant portion of cyber command located in our region,” Robert Guess, director of the cyber center at Tidewater Community College (TCC) in Virginia Beach, said in a phone interview. “Being there’s such strong cyber presence, partly related to the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard in Hampton Roads, we’re very well poised to help channel people into that work force.”
In May, TCC was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the United States National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Guess believes TCC’s cybersecurity program will grow soon because of this award. TCC offers six courses on cybersecurity, and about 100 students are studying the field, Guess said.
Not every student who takes cyber courses at TTC seeks a degree, Guess said. Many of them seek certifications for positions such as certified ethical hacker and certified information system security practitioner, Guess said. The starting pay for some of these positions, like an information security analyst is about $80,000, he said.
About 25 scholarships will be awarded to full-time, in-state students in a cybersecurity program at a Virginia nonprofit private or public college or university, the governor’s release said. Applicants must be within two years of graduating from an undergraduate or graduate program and must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. The scholarships will be administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
Applications for the coming school year will be accepted until Sept. 15, 2016 and the grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis; more details about the scholarship can be found here.
East Coast Polytechnic Institute University, at 5555 Greenwich Rd. in Virginia Beach, offers eight courses on cyber and network security
Guess said although TCC’s tuition is relatively low already, the grant program is helpful to students outside the main demographics, and the college is actively pursuing grant opportunities and scholarships for its cybersecurity students.
“It’s a unique enticement, it might fund someday, perhaps a career-switcher, a veteran or an underserved population to get into an education program they might not otherwise have been able to afford.”