RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia State University (VSU) announced it will offer free tuition to graduate teaching students who also serve as full-time substitutes in the Richmond or Petersburg school district.

This announcement comes days after Richmond Public Schools addressed the school system’s staffing shortage. The school system announced if 176 teaching positions are not filled by the start of the school year in August – they will hire substitutes and licensed teachers with no current assigned classrooms.

Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Superintendent Jason Kamras said at the school board meeting on Monday night that RPS would partner with VSU and Virginia Commonwealth University’s teacher residency programs.

VSU’s goal is not only to address the critical teaching shortage but also to increase the number of teachers of color, specifically men of color.

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

“We have to be aggressive; school is going to start in a month and a half, so we need to move forward with whatever means necessary. We are competing with schools all over the country. We have to grow our own,” said one school board member during the RPS School Board meeting on Monday night.