The Miss North Carolina Scholarship fund raised over $70,000 this year, nearly a 30 percent increase from 2016.
The women competing for the crown are mostly college students or high school seniors preparing to enter college.
McNeil Chestnut, lobbyist and scholarship chair for the Miss NC Scholarship, said the fund has grown significantly for each pageant for over the past few years.
"A great number, many Miss North Carolinas, have finished college debt-free," Chestnut said, "because of the scholarships they have received competing in the Miss North Carolina program."
The future Miss North Carolina 2017 will receive the biggest scholarship at $20,000. Runner-ups and finalists receive smaller amounts on a graduated scale. The scholarships pay for undergraduate studies, graduate degrees and even student debt if the recipient has already graduated.
The money comes from various fundraising events throughout the year. Many are related to performance and theater, like a Broadway review night or a dinner show featuring previous Miss North Carolinas. But last year the scholarship events also hosted a pheasant hunt.
Another significant source of funds is individual donors. Eleven benefactors sponsor designated scholarships for the contestants that are entirely separate from the pageant itself. Chestnut and his wife sponsor the Kate Peacock Teaching Fellow Scholarship, for example. Another focuses on women going into STEM.
"(The contestants) compete with an application," Chestnut said. "It has nothing to do with what they do onstage."
He also said that the Miss America program raises more scholarship money for women than any other program in the nation.
"It's far beyond a beauty pageant," he said.
Check out all of this year's contestants on our YouTube channel.
Be sure to tune in to ABC11 on June 24th at 7 p.m. to watch the new Miss North Carolina get crowned!