WINTERVILLE—Gov. Roy Cooper visited Pitt Community College last week for a roundtable discussion on the progress of North Carolina’s Finish Line Grants program.
The discussion, which took place Jan. 30 in the Craig M. Goess Construction & Industrial Technology Building, featured remarks from the governor, PCC President Lawrence Rouse, and Rivers East Workforce Development Board Director Jennie Bowen. Several Finish Line Grant recipients were also on hand to explain how the funding helped them overcome unexpected emergencies and continue progressing toward completion of their educational goals.
Started in 2018, the Finish Line Grants program provides financial assistance to community college students who have completed a majority of their degree, diploma or certificate programs, helping them stay in school and ‘cross the finish line’ when they encounter emergencies. Cooper said state legislators started the grants program after hearing countless stories from community college faculty about students dropping out before finishing their degrees due to finances.
The Finish Line Grants program, Cooper said, rewards hard work. “It says if you’re a good student and you’re on your way to finishing, you can qualify for this grant to help make sure that you can complete your degree,” he added.
Finish Line funding amounts vary, but students can receive as much as $1,000 in a semester to pay for a wide range of expenses, including educational materials, medical needs, dependent care, housing and transportation.
“Governor, let me assure you and everyone gathered for this roundtable discussion that Finish Line grants have indeed achieved their purpose,” Rouse said. “To the students who have received them, they’ve made all the difference in the world.”
Rouse stated that simply enrolling in higher education isn’t enough for students to succeed in today’s workforce. To properly train for careers, he said, they must finish the higher education pathways they’ve started, whether it’s for a short-term certificate to learn a specific skill for the workplace or a two-year degree to secure gainful employment.
“North Carolina’s Finish Line program has proven to be an invaluable financial resource for students who have faced the very real possibility of having to drop out of college when a crisis arose,” Rouse said. “Many of those individuals have told us in person that they would not have been able to continue their studies at PCC without the assistance they received through the Finish Line Grants program.”
Jasmine Dye, a Business Administration/Human Resource Management student, had already completed an associate degree when she returned to PCC to earn an additional certificate that will make her more marketable to potential employers. Dye requested Finish Line funding to help pay her electric bill over the holidays. She received the funding, remained in school and is on track to complete her educational goal in May.
“If I didn’t receive that grant last semester, I probably would have been homeless,” Dye said. “So, I’m here today to tell you that everything’s all right, we’re back to the groove, and we’re ready to tackle this semester and get it complete.”
Within the past year, nearly 240 PCC students have applied for Finish Line grants. Of those applicants, nearly 100 received funding — the average award being less than $500. Thus far, 42 percent of Pitt students who received Finish Line funds have gone on to earn a degree, diploma or certificate.
“In other words, they crossed the finish line,” Rouse said, adding that the college expects additional Finish Line recipients will complete their programs of study within the next few semesters.
Last month, Cooper announced that, since the initiative was first introduced, the Finish Line Grants program had awarded more than $2 million to North Carolina community college students through 3,000 grants.