ROANOKE, Va. -

As families are grocery shopping during the month of May, they have the option to donate to help students go to college.

It's for Virginia Western's Community College Access Program (CCAP). Through the end of this week, those checking out in the grocery line can either donate $1 or $5 to the CCAP program.

CCAP provides two years of free tuition for eligible students who have a diploma from Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, Roanoke County, Roanoke City or Salem City schools, and attended those schools for at least junior and senior year.

The program can help students like Brittany Helton  ultimately transfer to a four-year institution or enter the workforce with a certificate or Associate's degree. Helton will be the first in her immediate family to receive a college degree.

"It's just such a great program, and it's really just nice of people to want to help students locally here, to be able to go to college," Helton said.

Helton is starting her second year at the community college, and plans to transfer to James Madison University or the University of Virginia to pursue a physical therapy degree.

Helton, a Patrick Henry High School graduate, says without the CCAP program, it would be hard for her to continue on to higher education without racking up student debt.

Business Insider says that today, it is 400 percent more expensive to go to college in the U.S. than it was just 30 years ago.

The Chronicle of Higher Education says that out of 20 million enrolled college students, close to 12 million take out student loans each year to help cover costs. Today, there are about 37 million student loan borrowers with outstanding student loans.

Here's the press release from Virginia Western Community College:

At any local Kroger or Stop-In Food Stores during the month of May, customers may donate $1 or $5 to support Virginia Western's Community College Access Program (CCAP) and make college possible for local high school

The Diploma Campaign launched May 4, and Kroger and Stop-In Food Stores are partnering with Virginia Western to support CCAP and help bolster the economic base of the Roanoke Valley.

 "College is possible for all local high school graduates," President Robert H. Sandel said. "At Virginia Western, students get access to a quality education and can go directly into the workforce or transfer to a four-year institution. Through CCAP, they can get a degree or certificate and create a stronger regional economy."

CCAP allows local high school graduates to attend Virginia Western for two years cost-free. Administered by the Virginia Western Educational Foundation, CCAP now serves Botetourt, Craig, Franklin and Roanoke Counties and the Cities of Roanoke and Salem.

CCAP supports as many students as possible based on student need and available funds. The program was launched in 2008 with the pilot phase in Salem and expanded to Roanoke City in 2009. In Fall 2011, graduates of Franklin

County High School began participating in CCAP, and other localities joined in Fall 2013. Virginia Western is in the process of accepting the 2014-15 class of CCAP students.

Graduating seniors of participating high schools are eligible to apply for CCAP. Applicants must have attended the high school in, and have been a resident of, the participating locality in which they are applying for at least two years prior to graduation. The application process for 2013-14 is now closed and the application process for 2014-15 opens January 1, 2015.