New program to help students pay for tuition at all North Carolina community colleges

North Carolina news

JAMESTOWN, N.C. — Paying for college isn’t easy. In an era where the pandemic impacted everyone either mentally, physically, financially – or maybe on all three fronts – for some, finding money for higher education is more challenging than ever.

But there’s new help.

“We have more money than ever to help students pay to go to college,” says Lisa Koretoff, director of Financial Aid for Guilford Technical Community College.

Last month, Gov. Roy Cooper directed $51.4 million in new funding to help students pay for postsecondary education. The funding is the state’s share of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund.

Part of that allocation includes a $31.5 million investment to guarantee graduating high schoolers from low- and middle-income families get at least $2,800 in federal and state grants to cover tuition at any of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges. It’s called the Longleaf Commitment program and will supplement the federal Pell grant and existing aid by providing an additional $700 to $2,800 per year, for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years, according to a release from the covernor’s office.

“It’s going to double the number of students who normally get grants as freshman students here at GTCC,” Koretoff said.

At $76 a credit hour at GTCC, the new grant, coupled with other opportunities for funding, means many students wouldn’t have to pay a dime to get part of their higher education.

“It’s going to expand the eligibility for graduating seniors this year to come to GTCC for two years tuition-free,” Koretoff said.

For students like Harmony Savage, without financial assistance, graduating may not have been possible this year.

“Coming from a school that was 44–thousand, to come here [was] little to none,” she said.

Savage was able to take advantage of GTCC’s Titan Link program, which helps with things outside of the classroom, such as childcare, electronics and other emergency needs.

“It helps out with me being able to get more into my career, and not have to worry about being stressed about student loans at the moment,” she said.

To be eligible for Longleaf Commitment funds, students have to graduate from a North Carolina high school in 2021, be a North Carolina resident, and complete a FAFSA for the 2021-22 academic year, among other requirements.

“Students who have already applied for financial aid have already done it,” Koretoff said. “They’ve already completed the application, there’s nothing more they need to do.”

For more information on the Longleaf Commitment, click here.

“This year is gonna be the most exciting year in my opinion,” Koretoff said. “We have more resources than ever to help students pay for college.”

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