A new report jointly released by the University of North Carolina System and the NC Community College System recommends changes to the state grant programs that serve university and community college students. The report, titled “Strengthening North Carolina’s Need-Based State Grant Programs to Support Student Success,” reflects the work of the North Carolina Student Aid Study Group, an initiative chaired by NCCCS President Peter Hans and UNC System President Emeritus Margaret Spellings and made up of practitioners, financial aid experts, and policymakers drawn from UNC system institutions, community colleges, and the State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA).
Over the past eight months, the Study Group examined the current state of the Education Lottery Scholarship, UNC Need-Based Grant, and the Community College Grant, which collectively provide $165 million in scholarships each year to help North Carolina residents pay for college. The Study Group asked a number of key questions:
- Are our grant programs designed to maximize access and success for all UNC System and community college students?
- How do students and families learn about these opportunities?
- Do the programs create incentives for timely degree completion?
- Are our student aid programs designed to meet the needs of nontraditional students?
“Our students need us to simplify and streamline state grant programs and ensure they are aligned with retention and degree completion goals,” Hans said. “Aid is a critical tool for students to accelerate their academic success and expand their economic opportunity. We will build on the Student Aid Study Group’s work and continue to better align state investments with the needs of North Carolina students.”
The study resulted in 15 key recommendations in four core areas:
- creating a financial aid system that is simple, transparent, targeted and accessible;
- promoting early awareness of financial aid offerings;
- incentivizing student success to reduce time to degree completion; and
- testing innovative ideas and evaluating the effectiveness of current programs.
“We are excited to deliver these recommendations that, if implemented, will help more North Carolinians plan for education beyond high school, enroll in a public college or university, and complete a degree or certificate once they arrive there.” said Dr. Andrew Kelly, senior vice president for strategy and policy for the UNC System who was part of the joint steering committee. “By making our primary state grant programs more effective, these evidence-based reforms will increase the return on state investments.”
The North Carolina Student Aid Study Group was created by leadership at both the University of North Carolina System and North Carolina Community College System and supported by the John M. Belk Endowment. The group was made up of representatives from the UNC System, NC Community College System, the State Education Assistance Authority, a joint steering committee with membership from both system offices, and external partners.
A copy of the report is attached and can also be accessed, along with a list of Study Group members and other supporting documents, can be viewed here.