RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced from the campus of Wake Technical Community College on Thursday a grant program to help community college students who are waylaid by unexpected expenses that threaten to derail their education.
The Finish Line Grants program will use up to $7 million in federal funds to help students pay for items like course materials, housing, medical needs, child care, or unexpected financial emergencies. Cooper said he plans for the scholarships to go out within 72 hours of the eligible application so that students who might otherwise have to drop out can stay in school.
“A car repair should not determine your future,” he said.
While the North Carolina Community College System cannot track all the reasons that students have for dropping out, Cooper said educators know that many thousands of students leave community college every year because some sudden expense forces them to leave.
“This effort will help level the playing field statewide,” he said.
The grants will begin this coming school year. Any community college in the state can participate but there is no requirement for participation. Students eligible for the program must have completed 75 percent of their degree or credential, and they can get a maximum of $1,000 per semester. The goal is to help, in particular, those students who are near to completion of their education at a community college.
While he was not in attendance at the announcement yesterday, a recent Wake Tech graduate named Adam Leach was cited in a press release by the governor’s office. Through a Wake Tech program similar to the one Cooper announced yesterday, Leach was able to finish his education and become a nurse at UNC REX Healthcare.
“Without the Wake Tech Completion Scholarship, I would have never graduated. This is the help I needed. My wife and I knew if we could just get through these hard but temporary times and graduated then things would be alright. Now I am an RN at WakeMed in Raleigh, my wife is a radiography technician, and we made it,” Leach said in the press release.
Peter Hans, president of the North Carolina Community College System, praised the program at the announcement, saying it would be a boon to community college students across the state.
“When I think of community college students, so many are of modest means,” he said. “This $7 million will make a tremendous difference to them.”
At the announcement Cooper mentioned that he included a similar $20 million program for both community college and university students in his proposed short session budget. The budget passed by the General Assembly did not include Cooper’s proposal.
Alex Granados is a researcher and legislative reporter for EducationNC.