SANFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gov. Roy Cooper continued his tour of community colleges Tuesday with a stop at Central Carolina Community College in Sanford, where he met with students and administrators while highlighting the Longleaf Commitment Grant.
"This allows people who are moderate-income folks, lower-income folks, get the opportunity to get their community college tuition and fees paid for. And I think you will find almost unanimous support among the businesses out there. They know that this is important. A well-trained workforce is one of the most important things for their business that they can imagine," said Cooper.
The program provides $700 to $2,800 per year to full-time community college students in North Carolina for up to two years and aims to remove a key obstacle to education: affordability.
It also opens a path to secondary education, making areas more attractive to employers who are looking for specific skills and an educated workforce. On Tuesday, homebuilding supplier Service Offsite Solutions announced that it would invest $11.8 million to build a new manufacturing facility in Sanford, which will create 235 jobs as part of an expansion.
"That's one of the great things about our community colleges, is that they are flexible and will meet with the company and can set up special training programs," said Cooper.
"They know what they need in terms of talent. And the community colleges are designed to provide the educational or career pathway to meet the employer's needs. So we're able to do that, and that means we're supporting employers that are coming with great family-sustaining wage jobs, so it helps our communities," added Dr. Lisa Chapman, president of Central Carolina Community College.
All North Carolina residents live within a 30-minute drive of one of the state's 58 community colleges.
"Central Carolina is the college for Lee County, for Chatham County, and Harnett (County). What that means is we can grow our own talent. We can grow our own nurses. We can grow our own teachers," said Dr. Lisa Chapman, the President of Central Carolina Community College.
Bennet Lasater, a grant recipient in his first year of classes at CCCC, plans to pursue a career in teaching or law.
"Financially, it's beneficial. I get the same experience that a four-year institution would offer me. It provides a lot of organizations and programs that helps me develop skills," said Lasater.
Those valuable skills are essential as communities evolve; fellow recipient Aniya McAllister is pursuing a career in nursing, a passion that has grown since the beginning of the pandemic.
"As I've seen people get sicker and sicker, I just want to find cures and ways to just cease the diseases and sickness that is going around," said McAllister.
Lasater plans to attend UNC-Chapel Hill upon graduation, while McAllister plans to attend NC Central University.
The grant program offers partial awards for part-time students.