Update on Finish Line Grants

By Sarah Walker

A year later, Finish Line Grants are making a big difference for some students.

Last year, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that the state had awarded more than $1.8 million in Finish Line Grants to 30 community colleges. The goal of the grant program was to help students cover financial emergencies.

Since then, all 58 North Carolina community colleges have launched Finish Line Grant initiatives in partnership with their local workforce development boards. More than 1,700 students have been helped, allowing them to complete their education and prepare for the workforce.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is working alongside the Centralina Workforce Development Board to provide emergency funds for students who face unexpected life challenges that threaten to derail their program completion.

“We know that many of our students are juggling work, family and school, and life sometimes throws them a curve,” Rowan-Cabarrus President Carol S. Spalding said. “When we can offer resources to help them clear a hurdle and continue their education, everyone wins – the student, the College and the community.”

Eva Nicholson knows firsthand the difference a Finish Line Grant can make. She balanced academic life at Rowan-Cabarrus with family and the demanding role of Student Government Association president, which required frequent travel among the college’s five campuses. With worn tires on her truck and medical bills that had mounted as she had battled and beaten cancer, she feared the time would soon come that she would be unable to pay her tuition and complete her degree.

A Finish Line Grant awarded her money to help with medical bills and also paid for new tires, alleviating enough financial burden that she was able to graduate in May 2019 with an associate degree.

“I was so thankful. The grant alleviated some of my stress and made it possible for me to stay on track,” said Nicholson, who is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree at a four-year university. “I had worked hard, and I would have been devastated if I hadn’t been able to make it through to graduation.”

Nicholson and fellow Rowan-Cabarrus student Charles White have helped spread the word by participating in Awake58 Fellows, a group of community college students, many of them Finish Line Grant recipients, who work to create awareness of the grant program. They encourage their peers to apply for grants and serve as resources for faculty, staff and others to ensure that as many students as possible can benefit.

To apply for a Finish Line Grant, a student must have a 2.0 or higher grade point average, have completed at least 50 percent of their program of study, and be a United States citizen. A student may be awarded up to $1,000 per semester to be used to pay for course materials, housing, medical costs, child care and other emergencies.

“We are pleased to be part of this program to keep students on the path to completion,” Spalding said. “We have many talented, deserving students who are motivated to complete their education and enjoy rewarding careers, and we want every one of them to have that chance.”

Sarah Walker

is chief officer of governance, advancement and community relations at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in North Carolina.