2021 High School Graduates Eligible For Free Community College

2021 High School Graduates Eligible For Free Community College

Free college is possible for 2021 high school graduates.

Students who graduate from North Carolina high schools in 2021 and choose to attend a North Carolina community college this fall may be eligible for a Longleaf Commitment Grant that covers tuition and fees.

Full-time eligible students pursuing a degree or credits for transfer will receive $700 to $2,800 per academic year for two years. Part-time students may receive a partial award.

“I really want new high school graduates and their parents to know about this and take advantage of it,” said Joanna Morrisette, Wayne Community College associate vice president for academic and student services.

Morrisette noted that the majority of WCC students receive some form of financial assistance. “If you think in terms of need, more than two-thirds of high school graduates will be eligible for this,” said Morrisette.

Morrisette said that for many students, “$2,800 is enough to pay tuition, fees, and books and have some left over.”

Students will be automatically vetted for the grant if they complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the application for the community college they wish to attend, including the residency determination that is part of that process.

“They don’t have to do anything additional,” said Joanna Morrisette. “There is no separate application.”

“The FAFSA process is much easier than it used to be. It is all electronic and results usually come in a matter of days,” Morrisette said. Potential students can start at www.waynecc.edu/financial-aid/how-to-apply/.

WCC’s admission application process is online also and is accessible from www.waynecc.edu/apply-now/.

Morrisette encouraged students to submit their applications as soon as possible as the amount of funds available for distribution is limited.

Eligible students will receive notification of any grant amount in their award letter from the college’s Financial Aid Department.

Longleaf Commitment Grants can be received in addition to federal Pell grants and State funds. Since they are grants, they do not have to be paid back.

The Longleaf Grant program ends at the conclusion of the 2023 spring semester.

The full list of eligibility requirements includes:

  • Graduate from a North Carolina high school in 2021.
  • Be a North Carolina resident for tuition purposes.
  • Be a first-time college student. Career and College Promise and Early/Middle College High School students are eligible for the grant.
  • Enroll in a curriculum (college credit) program during the 2021-22 academic year.
  • Enroll in at least six credit hours per semester.
  • Complete the FAFSA for 2021-22.
  • Have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0 to $15,000. “EFC” is based on the student’s FAFSA determination.
  • Renew the FAFSA for the 2022-23 academic year and meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress Requirements of the college.

The Longleaf Commitment Grant program is a partnership between the North Carolina Governor’s Office, North Carolina Community College System, and the State Education Assistance Authority.

The governor committed up to $31 million to support this pilot program, which will include $25 million for student aid and $6 million in matching funds to expand student support services. The package is funded through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund that came from federal COVID-19 relief packages.

“Education translates into opportunity, and I thank Gov. Cooper for his decision to use federal funds to extend higher education opportunities for students to attend community colleges,” said Thomas Stith, president of the NC Community College System. “North Carolina’s ‘great 58’ community colleges are essential to the state’s economic recovery efforts and are well poised to prepare the workforce needed, today and tomorrow.”