By on 6.21.21 in Education

On March 24th, Governor Cooper directed $51.4 million in new funding to help students access and complete postsecondary education as the state recovers from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is drawn from North Carolina’s share of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, which are federal funds appropriated to assist educational institutions, from school districts, postsecondary institutions, and other education opportunities to reduce the detrimental impact from COVID-19. North Carolina will invest:

  • $44 million to help students access college and earn degrees starting in the Fall of 2021;
  • $5 million to support mental health initiatives across state postsecondary institutions; and
  • $2.4 million into initiatives that are equity-focused for K-12 and postsecondary students and families.

As part of the $44 million to help students access college and earn degrees, Governor Cooper has announced the creation of a new $31.5M Longleaf Commitment Grant, which will provide tuition assistance to high school seniors from low- and middle-income families who choose to attend one of North Carolina’s 58 Community Colleges.

Specifically, eligible high school students who graduate in 2021 and choose to attend an NC community college during the 2021-2022 school year will receive a minimum grant of $700 to $2,800 per year for two years. Award amounts will vary based on the number of credits in which a student is enrolled. The grant will end after the Spring 2023 semester.

What are the eligibility requirements for students?

  • Be a 2021 North Carolina high school graduate attending one of North Carolina’s community colleges in the 2021-2022 academic year.
  • Have an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $15 thousand or less as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Be a North Carolina resident.
  • Enroll for at least six credit hours per semester in a curriculum program.
  • Meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements of the community college.

What resources are available to provide relevant information and assistance to educators and students interested in the Longleaf Commitment Grant?

For students, parents, and counselors

We recommend starting with the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC), which has posted details regarding eligibility, award amount information, residency requirements, as well as links to completing FAFSA and the CFNC Application Hub. Specifically, the Application Hub is designed to help students apply for college, access transcripts, and monitor the application process. Most information on the specifics of the Longleaf Commitment Grant can be found on the CFNC website, linked above.

For counselors and principals

Carolina Demography, in partnership with myFutureNC, created an NC First in FAFSA Tracker that launched in January 2021. Completing the FAFSA is one of the eligibility requirements for the Longleaf Commitment Grant.

This dashboard allows users to see the current percentage of high school students who have completed the FAFSA across the state. The tracker is updated weekly and can help school and community leadership determine where students are in completions in comparison to peer schools. Identifying schools with similar characteristics with higher FAFSA completion rates can help local leaders identify potential opportunities to learn about outreach strategies and tactics that may be effective at increasing FAFSA completions in their schools. Using the track also provides information on where to target efforts on FAFSA completions, again one of the eligibility requirements for the Longleaf Commitment Grant.

Next steps

We are beginning to understand how COVID-19 closures created disruptions to secondary and postsecondary education. We will be looking to see if the Longleaf Commitment Grants boost enrollment and degree compeletion at North Carolina’s community colleges in the coming year. If you have questions or other thoughts, please contact us at

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