Education

Students deal with end of EARN program

Posted March 8, 2010 2:17 p.m. EST
Updated March 8, 2010 6:30 p.m. EST

— Timyka Bolden’s son, Johnny, graduated from Knightdale High School last June and enrolled at Chowan University to major in graphic design.

“He was, of course, very excited when he got the letter saying he was accepted,” Bolden said.

Like many families, Bolden didn’t have the money to pay for college. The bill for Chowan is more than $27,000 a year. So, Bolden's son applied for need-based scholarships to help.

“They gave him a lot of grant money,” Bolden said.

Johnny also received the state-funded Education Access Rewards North Carolina Scholars Fund (EARN), which supplies $2,000 per semester to help reduce loan amounts for students.

The state ran out of money for the EARN program after handing out funds in August 2009 for the fall semester. The program was canceled before Johnny's second semester at Chowan.

“In the middle of the year, they pull the carpet from under them. That's horrible that the state would pull the carpet from under these kids,” Bolden said.

Steven Brooks, executive director of the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority, said the end of the EARN program was “disappointing to everyone concerned.”

Students who lost EARN can check their colleges for extra grants and look into federal loans to make up the difference, Brooks said.

Bolden’s son had to take out a second loan to pay for school.

A General Assembly study committee is currently looking for ways to provide state-funded student aid.

“The EARN scholarship is an idea that I think a lot of us would like to see come back,” Brooks said.

Experts say there are many need-based scholarships and loans available for students. They say it is important for high school seniors to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form, which is required to apply for need-based scholarship money that won’t have to be paid back.