Hundreds of Beaufort County Community College students completed classes despite obstacles and shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $347,710 in financial assistance to 305 students who were affected by the disruption of the delivery of instruction due to COVID-19. Students can still access state-funded Finish Line grants to address similar emergencies.
The broader CARES Act provided Paycheck Protection Programs and direct stimulus checks to all qualifying residents, helping many people in the BCCC community stay in their homes, get small business loans and counseling, and deal with upheaval related to work, childcare and education. Congress has continued to provide additional support as the pandemic spread and schools, colleges and businesses remained closed or online in the best interest of public health.
The CARES Act included the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) which provided emergency grants to help students meet urgent, basic needs such as food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare and childcare as the result of COVID-19. BCCC awarded every dollar of $347,710 it received through HEERF.
HEERF grants helped BCCC students who were enrolled in spring 2020 curriculum courses. Only students who qualified for federal Pell grants for spring 2020 were eligible. The greater the number of academic credits in which a student was enrolled in spring 2020, the greater percentage of funding the student they received.
“We had a lot of students who would have struggled to continue their education during this unprecedented time,” said Serena Sullivan, vice president of institutional advancement, who oversaw the distribution of HEERF grants. “Every student who stayed enrolled during the pandemic will be stronger and more resilient for it. They have had to learn to be adaptable to new ways of studying and interacting with classmates, all while dealing with external pressures like childcare and work.”
“Our students are usually on a tight budget, so unexpected situations like this can force them to withdraw or postpone finishing their education,” she said. “We wanted to put them at ease as much as possible so they can focus on their studies and stay on track to pursue their dreams and goals.”
This funding ensures that there will not be a gap in meeting workforce needs during or after the pandemic in fields like nursing and manufacturing or a drop-off in university enrollment.
Students can still access Finish Line grants to address financial emergencies such as vehicle repairs, tuition and fees, utility bills and childcare costs. This North Carolina-funded program existed before the pandemic to help students experiencing disruptions to their education who were close to completing a degree. These grants are still available to students. For more information about Finish Line grants, contact Kimberly Jackson at [email protected] or 252-940-6252.