Governor Cooper announces $ 51.4 million in education grants and a new financial aid program

RALEIGH, North Carolina – Governor Roy Cooper on Monday allocated $ 51.4 million in new funding to help students access and complete post-secondary education as the state recovers from the pandemic.

Governor to invest $ 44 million in funds to help students access college and earn degrees starting this fall; $ 5 million to support mental health initiatives at state post-secondary institutions; and $ 2.4 million in equity-focused initiatives for K-12 and post-secondary students and families.

Funding is North Carolina’s share of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, in federal dollars that aims to help school districts, post-secondary institutions or other education-related entities cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students and educators in our state have faced challenges both inside and outside the classroom during the pandemic,” Governor Cooper said. “The GEER funds announced today will provide much-needed relief to community colleges and universities across the state, help us continue to build and develop a thriving and diverse workforce, and provide students with equitable access to education. post-secondary education.

With this package, the governor will launch the Longleaf Commitment program, a $ 31.5 million investment to ensure high school graduates from low- and middle-income families receive at least $ 2,800 in federal and state grants to cover costs. tuition and most of the tuition fees. the 58 state community colleges. The engagement program will complement the Federal Pell Grant and existing aid by providing an additional grant of $ 700 to $ 2,800 per year for the academic years 2021-22 and 2022-23 for students to earn an associate degree and / or credits to be transferred into four year college or university in North Carolina. Additional details on how students can apply for these grants will be available at

To support student success after enrollment, the Longleaf Commitment program will also provide matching grants to help colleges expand student counseling, success coaching, and related services.

“Education translates into opportunity, and I thank Governor Cooper for his decision to use federal funds to expand higher education opportunities for students at community colleges,” said Thomas Stith, president of the NC Community College System. “North Carolina’s 58 major community colleges are essential to the state’s economic recovery efforts and are well positioned to prepare the needed workforce, now and in the future.”

The Longleaf Commitment builds on the governor’s discretionary GEER assistance as a first step towards the more robust NC Guarantee grant program, which the governor has proposed through American Rescue Plan Act funding. If enacted, the NC Guarantee would ensure that students from eligible families receive at least $ 6,000 per year in federal and state grants to attend any UNC or North Carolina Community College institution.

Both programs demonstrate the Governor’s commitment to affordable education and the development of a skilled workforce.

“As we work with lawmakers to fund the NC Guarantee, today’s graduates need help immediately,” Governor Cooper said. “The Longleaf Commitment is a down payment towards more affordable and predictable pathways for students through NC Guarantee.”

The governor will also launch the Longleaf Complete program to help students whose studies were interrupted during the pandemic to complete their studies. Flexible funding of $ 12.5 million will help the Office of the UNC System, the NC Community College System, and independent colleges and universities provide financial assistance or expand student support services to help students who are on the job. point of completing their degree or diplomas and in need of further assistance.

“Independent colleges and universities have worked so hard during this pandemic to keep students safe and on track for their educational progress,” said NC Independent Colleges and Universities president Hope Williams. “We deeply appreciate the Governor’s support for mental health assistance and for $ 4 million that will help help students complete their degrees.

Beyond affordability of universities, Governor Cooper is dedicating $ 5 million to the UNC System Office to rapidly expand mental health services to students statewide. According to the UNC, 8 in 10 students say their mental health has been negatively affected by the pandemic. National data reinforces the urgent need to provide campus communities with the training, resources and expertise to better support students, staff and faculty. To the extent possible, the UNC System Office will expand access to training and shared services to institutions outside the UNC system in consultation with community colleges and independent colleges and universities.

“The UNC system appreciates the governor’s support to keep our students on track to graduate on time through completion grants and to address urgent mental health needs, especially for at-risk students.” , said Peter Hans, president of the UNC system. “The Governor’s emphasis on helping the most vulnerable during the pandemic is reflected in his leadership on these issues.”

The higher education actions build on the governor’s recommendation to use federal bailout funds to help at least 200,000 more people earn trade degrees or certificates in 2025.

The package will also improve data and expand equity initiatives through the following programs:

  • $ 825,000 to extend the Jobs for North Carolina Graduates (JNCG), which teaches 11e and the employability and vocational skills of grade 12 students for their integration into the labor market after graduation. The program currently operates in eight high schools located primarily in rural North Carolina counties. JNCG College and Career Coaches at each participating school identify students who are at risk of not completing high school or making the transition to the workforce due to economic, family, academic, or personal barriers.
  • “To increase educational completion, improve graduation and ensure that students continue their path to post-secondary education, it is essential that our youth have access to academic and career development support, especially when trying to regain momentum after COVID, ”said Jill Cox, president and CEO of communities in schools in North Carolina. “This incredible investment in our 11e and 12e Students in Jobs for North Carolina’s Graduates will spark hope and propel future opportunities for students across the state. “
  • $ 750,000 to develop an education recovery dashboard, which will give education leaders the data they need to better serve students, families and educators as school districts and colleges manage more than 10 billion dollars in federal aid to education. This resource will provide timely data to ensure that the state’s education recovery is swift and equitable.
  • $ 650,000 to develop and promote an accessible digital literacy toolkit that educates students and parents on digital literacy skills that are essential to distance learning and workforce opportunities. This is a recommendation from Andrea Harris Task Force, which Governor Cooper established to address social, economic, environmental and health disparities in communities of color.
  • $ 173,000 to further support the NC School of Science and Math and the UNC School for the Arts, which have each received federal COVID relief funds limited to none due to the size of their high school student populations.

North Carolina previously received $ 95.6 million in GEER I funds under the CARES Act. Help from the first GEER package, which the governor announced in the fall, has been used to hire student health and academic support staff in more than 170 school districts and charter schools, helping more than 5,200 students earn credentials recognized by the industry and provide emergency financial assistance to more than 6,900 college students.

In December, the federal Coronavirus Control and Relief Supplementary Appropriations Act allocated $ 42.2 million in GEER II funds to North Carolina. GEER II support will be available until September 30, 2023. The rewards announced today include $ 9.4 million of remaining GEER I funds and $ 42.0 million of GEER II funds.

See it GEER II technical sheet.

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