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Community colleges want to spread the word: Longleaf Commitment Grant will help students reach their goals

Update Dec. 10, 2021: The Longleaf Commitment Grant is now available for 2020 North Carolina high school graduates in addition to 2021 graduates. Read more here.

The State Board of Community Colleges met today and approved a request for the North Carolina Community College System Office to enter into a contract for a statewide awareness campaign for the Longleaf Commitment Grant program.

Gov. Roy Cooper is using federal COVID-19 aid to provide $31.5 million for the grant program geared towards 2021 high school graduates from low- and middle-income families.

North Carolina community colleges saw historic drops in enrollment in 2020. During a recent webinar hosted by myFutureNC, panelists said data indicate that many students are planning to forgo college this fall.

Intended to facilitate learning recovery, the Longleaf Commitment Grant program helps ensure that North Carolina high school graduates do not fall out of the education pipeline for good.

The grant guarantees that eligible students receive $700 to $2,800 per year, for a total of two years if they attend one of the state’s 58 community colleges.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Graduate from a North Carolina high school in 2021.
  • Be a North Carolina resident for tuition purposes.
  • Be a first-time college student (Career & College Promise and Early/Middle College High School students are eligible).
  • Enroll in a curriculum program during the 2021-22 academic year.
  • Enroll in at least 6 credit hours per semester.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 2021-22.
  • Have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from $0 – $15,000.  (EFC is based upon student’s FAFSA determination).
  • Renew FAFSA for the 2022-23 academic year and meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements of the college.

You can read more about the program and how to apply here. 

The marketing campaign to bring statewide awareness of the Longleaf Commitment Grant will target 2021 high school graduates, particularly in underserved populations. 

According to board documents, the campaign, which is not to exceed $725,000, will begin as soon as possible with much of the work being completed by August 2021. 

Lisa Estep, chair of the Board’s Accountability and Audit committee, said they are “behind the eight ball” since most of the students they are targeting have already graduated.

“We want to get started on doing a very targeted ad campaign … around this Longleaf Commitment Grant program,” said Estep. 

William Holder, vice chair of the Board’s Policy and Governance committee, asked how they will gauge and determine success from the advertising campaign. 

“I think the experience that we gained from the most recent marketing campaign, ‘Your Hire Education,’ gave us insight on matrix to assess success or non-success of a marketing campaign. We’re going to utilize that experience,” said Thomas Stith, president of the North Carolina Community College System.

The System Office will work with a marketing company to track and measure the success of the campaign.

“Ultimately it will be the amount of high school students, those seniors, that move forward to enroll in some type of coursework at the community college,” Stith said.

The State Board of Community Colleges will meet again July 15-16, 2021 on the RTP campus of Wake Technical Community College.

Other community college news

Wayne Community College’s (WCC) president, Thomas A. Walker, Jr., announced his resignation on June 1.

Walker accepted the position of senior advisor for economic development and military affairs for the University of North Carolina System. He will also serve as a liaison between the UNC System and North Carolina Community College System. 

Walker is the sixth president of WCC and has been at the college since September 2016. His last day at WCC will be July 23.

Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a policy analyst for EducationNC.