SCC Concerned About Loss of Lottery Scholarships
Sandhills Community College leaders are concerned about an amendment added to the state House budget last week that would eliminate education lottery scholarship (ELS) funding for community college students.
In 2009-2010, more than 15,000 North Carolina community college students received these scholarships, representing more than $15 million in need-based aid, according to a news release from the college.
Sandhills Community College was able to award almost $241,000 to 261 students for the 2010-11 academic year from this source.
"The thought of this funding going away is very disturbing," said Lindsey Farmer, the assistant director of financial aid at Sandhills. "We do not want to see these students give up on their education and training for a career."
The ELS provides about half of the state-supported, need-based aid to community college students. The typical ELS recipient is a nontraditional student. This means that they are not a typical high school graduate coming to college directly out of high school, SCC officials said.
Many are often adults supporting other family members, and most work full- or part-time. Some have lost jobs and are attending college to train for a new skill.
"The students we are able to help with the ELS are those who do not typically qualify for other types of assistance," Financial Aid Director Heather Willett said. "I can think of a struggling father who lost his job. He is from a neighboring county, where unemployment is extremely high. He came to us and is now enrolled in our culinary arts program. Someone like him would not be able to attend college, if these funds go away.
"Yes, some of these students could take out loans, but it will probably be a long, long time before they will be able to get ahead once they graduate. The money for education that comes from lottery proceeds benefits our students in much better ways than saddling them and their families with a huge debt burden.
"The recipients of the ELS often already have mortgages and car payments. This scholarship assists those who can barely make it. They live paycheck to paycheck. They want to do better in life and furthering their education is their key to a brighter future."
The cost of a college education is growing three times faster than the average family income, the news release said.
Community colleges are an important part of North Carolina's higher education system, SCC leaders say. They give students easy access to a post-secondary education and the opportunity to obtain a high-quality education at a reasonably low cost, the college said in the news release.
Community colleges are known as "economic first-responders" by putting people back to work during tough economic times.
"Another student that comes to mind is a woman who lost her job at a local hotel," Farmer said. "She is in her 50s and was receiving unemployment. She has no dependents and was unable to qualify for traditional financial aid. She is studying human services, and if the ELS is eliminated, our community will be without a well-trained person whose goal is to assist and counsel others."
Willet added, "We probably have students in every program at the college that would not be here without ELS. Future nurses, computer programmers, automotive technicians, cosmetologists, health care workers, those who hope to work in medical or business offices, our culinary students... all of these students will be affected. I feel certain that most will be forced to drop out."
Work is under way to have these funds restored in the Senate's version of the budget. SCC officials said senators need to know how important these scholarships are to the future of the community college student and the community as a whole.
"If our students lose almost half of the state-supported, need-based aid, it is going to be detrimental to so many," said Farmer. "Cutting this aid will be crushing to several hundred students."
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