Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

Enrolling in community college this fall? You might qualify for free tuition. Here’s how.

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Many students starting community college this fall will qualify for financial aid from the state. The Longleaf Commitment 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.

Using federal COVID-19 aid, the Longleaf Commitment Grant guarantees financial assistance for 2021 North Carolina high school graduates from low- and middle-income families. The requirements for eligibility are listed below.

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.

If you are not a 2021 high school graduate, you still might qualify for financial assistance. Students enrolled in short-term workforce training programs can qualify for a scholarship through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. Students can receive $750 per course or the cost of the course if it exceeds $750.

GEER scholarships can help cover tuition, fees, books, and other costs of attendance such as transportation and child care. These scholarships are available through Sept. 30, 2022. The requirements for eligibility are listed below.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Be a resident of North Carolina.
  • Be enrolled in Workforce Continuing Education (WCE) pathways/courses offered
    for 96 hours or more and leading to a state or industry-recognized credential. These
    pathways may consist of a single WCE course or a series of courses.
  • Students must be enrolled in one of 10 programs, although colleges will have flexibility to add other programs to meet local workforce needs. Those programs are:
    • Automotive
    • Aircraft Maintenance
    • Construction
    • Criminal Justice
    • Emergency Medical Services
    • Healthcare
    • Industrial/Manufacturing
    • Information Technology
    • Transportation
    • Fire and Rescue Services

Visit your local community college’s website to learn more about GEER scholarships.

Finally, several community colleges are expanding the GEER and Longleaf Commitment scholarships to include more students. For example, Martin Community College is offering free tuition and fees for students who enroll in programs designed to be completed in one year that lead to an entry-level job through their Career in a Year initiative. Beaufort County Community College is offering free tuition and fees for all students who are North Carolina residents through spring 2023 through the Beaufort Promise. Check out your local community college’s website to see if you qualify for financial assistance.

Alli Lindenberg

Alli Lindenberg is an executive fellow for EducationNC.

Molly Osborne Urquhart

Molly Osborne is the vice president and Chief Operating Officer for EducationNC.