RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Community colleges across North Carolina just got even more accessible and affordable.
The N.C. Community College system is expanding its new Longleaf Commitment Grant program to reach 2020 high school graduates who may be thinking the pandemic pushed higher education out of reach.
"We call it nudging towards normalcy and we're very excited about spring semester," said Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Wake Technical Community College.
Ralls is looking ahead to spring semester because at Wake Tech, just like it is across the statewide community college system, enrollment is up.
"For a lot of people the last two years have felt like stepping back and for some delaying plans and delaying ambitions and goals, but we want to be at Wake Tech and I think all the community colleges is accelerating opportunities and knowing that this is the best place you can possibly start and with these types of resources, it's affordable," said Ralls.
All 58 community colleges in North Carolina participate in the Longleaf Commitment Grant program that has already helped 11,000 high school graduates.
The program, which launched with $25 million in federal pandemic relief funds, had money left over following fall enrollment. So now, it's expanding to 2020 high school graduates.
"It's going to be huge for North Carolina," said Thomas Stith, N.C. Community College System President.
Stith said with grants ranging from $700-$2,800, many students can now attend community college for up to two years tuition and fee free.
"You have global companies locating in North Carolina, we have a very vibrant economy here in this state and the community college system is going to lead in providing the workforce and effectively train individuals for that coming demand in our state," said Stith.
Applications for the Longleaf Commitment Grant are now being accepted.