The price tag for college may seem daunting, but, in comparison with many other states, you’ll find North Carolina’s colleges and universities reasonably priced. Plus, a number of North Carolina residents planning to attend an in-state school benefit from North Carolina scholarships, grants, and other programs to help cover college costs.
To be considered for North Carolina scholarships or grants, you’ll need to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) first. You can file as early as October 1 of your senior year of high school. Once you’ve filed, results will become available to the State and can be used to automatically consider your eligibility for possible State aid. Even with the opportunity for federal and state aid, the U.S. Department of Education finds more than $2.7 billion in federal money is left on the table every year by students not filling out the FAFSA. Don’t you miss out!
Need-based grants and scholarships are reserved for students who demonstrate financial need. North Carolina has money available to assist State residents who need financial help with the cost of many higher education institutions in our State. In-state residents attending institutions in the University of North Carolina (UNC) system may qualify for a UNC Need-Based Grant; those attending community college in the State may be eligible for an N.C. Community College Grant; and those attending eligible independent, nonprofit colleges and universities in the State may qualify for a Need-Based Scholarship. The State also provides Education Lottery Scholarships to in-state students who need financial help to enroll on UNC campuses or N.C. Community Colleges.
Information on many other North Carolina need-based grants and scholarships is available at CFNC.org. Take a look.
Merit-based grants and scholarships are awarded on more criteria than financial need. Typically these are awarded on criteria such as special talent, ability, or leadership. Filing your FAFSA first helps you be considered for these opportunities as well. You will need to complete a separate application for each merit-based grant or scholarship for which you think you might qualify. A number of merit-based programs are offered by groups within the State specifically for North Carolina residents attending an in-state college or university. Check CFNC.org for more information on these programs. The merit-based scholarships and grants may be awarded for a single year or may be renewable if certain criteria are met.
Certain grants and scholarships may be based on criteria other than need or merit. For example, the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf Scholarship helps students who are legally deaf pay for college. Don’t overlook this pool of grants and scholarships: you may find a program that will help you pay for college too. For most of these programs, you simply have to fill out the FAFSA and apply, usually with your transcript and some form of essay response. There are dozens of options in NC alone!
Another source of money for North Carolina college students from the State may be available through CFNC.org by going to the State Education Assistance Authority portal. Look at the last bullet under Merit-Based and Other Scholarships for directions to access the SEAA Student Portal for programs such as the NC National Guard Tuition Grant, Forgivable Education Loans, Golden Leaf Scholarships and more. Exploring these will be well-worth your time. The Forgivable Education Loan for Service (FELS), for example, can help you with money towards a degree in critical need areas such as nursing, teaching, allied health, or medicine. While this program is a loan, if you work in North Carolina after you graduate from one of the FELS eligible programs, you can repay your loan by working in an approved position one year for each academic year of funding you get – repaying your loan with service.
There are plenty of options for paying for school if you know where to look. These links should be your first, but definitely not your last, stop for finding help paying for college! For more information and help finding aid options, visit CFNC.org or call College Foundation of North Carolina at 866-866-CFNC (2362).