RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia State University is now offering free tuition to graduate students who serve as full-time substitute teachers in the Richmond and Petersburg school system.

The goal of the program is to increase the number of highly qualified teachers of color, particularly men of color, in addition to addressing the critical teacher shortage in Richmond and Petersburg.

The program will also provide Pre-K-12 classrooms with culturally and linguistically diverse teachers.

Students will have the opportunity to earn a Master of Education within one year, while they gain “real-world experience in a classroom under the supervision of a master teacher,” according to the release. During their residency, students will work nights and weekends on their Master of Education Degree in Elementary Education (Pre K-6) or in General Curriculum for Special Education (K-12).

Once students earn their degrees, they must commit to a full-time teaching position with their residency school division for an additional three years.

VSU said residency candidates must hold a current bachelor’s degree, and want to teach in schools with a more than 30% poverty rate.

The residency program is funded through the first-ever “I Too Teach” Grant for HBCUs from the Virginia Department of Education. The Master of Education program is now accepting applications.