Program promises free tuition to CCCC for Chatham grads

BY CASEY MANN News + Record Staff
Posted 12/27/18

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners last week unanimously approved Chatham Promise, a program giving qualifying graduates from Chatham County High Schools up to two years free tuition.

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Program promises free tuition to CCCC for Chatham grads

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Posted

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners last week unanimously approved Chatham Promise, a program giving qualifying graduates from Chatham County High Schools up to two years free tuition.

A similar program has been in place in Lee County since the spring, with more than 80 students already taking advantage of the opportunity. Harnett County recently passed a similar program as well.
Graduates of any Chatham County high school who have taken at least 12 credit hours of courses at CCCC while attending high school would be eligible for the program. Both career and technical education courses and college transfer courses taken through CCCC by Chatham County students would qualify. Students would have access to curriculums on each of CCCC’s three campuses.
The Chatham Promise program will cost the county about $1,050,000 over the next five years. The program, which CCCC President Dr. Bud Marchant expects to help about 200 students its first year, will be paid for by the county using a reimbursement program.
CCCC will invoice Chatham County at the end of each semester for applicable tuition and fees. Along with invoices, CCCC will provide the county with a breakdown of the study areas of the students as well as other data that will inform the board about the students receiving assistance.
High school students scheduled to graduate would first need to apply for financial aid at CCCC. Prospective students would begin meeting with advisors as early as their junior year of high school to ensure all financial aid requirements are met, according to Jim Crawford, a Chatham County commissioner and trustee for CCCC.
Students would also need to apply for CCCC Foundation scholarships. For those accepted into the program, tuition costs not covered by Pell Grants or other scholarships would be covered by Chatham Promise. Students who do not qualify for financial aid would still be able to qualify for Chatham Promise and would not be required to take out student loans.
Marchant emphasized that the agreement is only for a five-year pilot program, noting CCCC would come before the board after the fourth year to allow the board time to determine if it wants to continue the program.
“At the end of the period, you can evaluate and determine if you want to keep it or change it,” Marchant said. “You can see the benefit and evaluate it to determine if it was worth it.”
When asked by the board what type of students this program would likely help, Marchant stated that he did not yet have data from the Lee Promise program.
“Anecdotally, these students were on the cusp,” Marchant said. “Their families made too much to qualify for the federal program…but still didn’t have enough to afford college. This will allow them to live in our community, to work in our community, to pay taxes in our community, and be part of our community,”
This opens the door for someone who maybe never thought about college because of finances,” Crawford said. “This opens the door to reduce their debt-load.”
“The sooner we do this the sooner these young people can get good jobs,” Crawford said.
The program received an endorsement from the Chatham County Board of Education in September and the Chatham Economic Development Corporation endorsed the program last spring.
The program will be available for qualifying Chatham County high school graduates beginning in May.

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