More need-based financial aid in new NC budget

Posted November 23, 2021 4:38 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2021 4:44 p.m. EST

Stanly Community College is planning a new trades facility that will focus on workforce development. (Photo Courtesy of Stanly County Economic Development)

North Carolina high school seniors graduating in 2022 can get extra help paying for community college following the expansion of a grant program started during the pandemic.

The Longleaf Commitment grant program began in May 2021, using $25 million in federal money that was earmarked to help schools and students recover from the pandemic. It guarantees lower-income students enough financial aid to cover tuition and fees at a community college for two years.

The program provides between $700 and $2,800 per year, according to Andrea Poole, executive director of the State Educational Assistance Authority, which manages the state’s scholarship and grant programs.

Longleaf grants are available to students whose expenses exceed other financial aid they qualify for, including Pell grants and state lottery scholarships.

The grants were initially available only to prospective two-year students who completed high school in the 2020-21 school year. Poole said about 12,000 of those students took advantage of the program.

Because there was funding left over, she said, the community college system recently decided to open it up to students who finished high school in the 2019-2020 school year as well.

The new state budget adds another $25 million to extend the grants to qualifying students who graduate in the 2021-2022, adding a third cohort.

The grants are administered the same way as the other state financial aid programs, Poole said. “You fill out your FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], you get back your expected family contribution number, and there's a chart that says specifically how much you're getting from this grant.”

Poole said applications for this year’s seniors will open in the spring at the NCSEAA website.

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