Dr. Stelfanie Williams, the president of Vance-Granville Community College, announced a major new commitment today (March 21) to eliminate financial barriers to higher education for residents of Vance, Granville, Franklin and Warren counties.
President Williams said a new need-based scholarship program, called the “VanGuarantee,” is designed to cover tuition, student fees and textbooks for eligible students whose financial needs are unmet by federal financial aid and other means of support. She made the announcement at a meeting of the VGCC Board of Trustees and was joined by school superintendents and members of the boards of education from the four counties served by the college.
VGCC already has a robust, almost 40-year-old Endowment Fund that provides primarily merit-based scholarships.
“The VanGuarantee program enhances our college’s commitment to supporting deserving students, particularly those who demonstrate the greatest financial need, because we do not want the cost of attendance to be a barrier for any student at any stage,” Dr. Williams said. “We want to guarantee that every student in our community who wants to earn a college degree can do so.”
Making the VanGuarantee possible is a $1.6 million bequest to VGCC from the estate of Wilbert A. Edwards. The gift, announced in 2015, is the second largest in the history of the college. A resident of Oxford at the time of his death in 2001, Edwards was a native of Vance County and a decorated World War II fighter pilot. In addition to the VanGuarantee, funds from the Edwards estate are being used for faculty development and for college facilities.
In its scope, the new program is believed to be unique in the North Carolina Community College System. As policymakers and students have expressed growing concerns about the rising cost of college, VGCC joins colleges across the country in creating innovative “promise” or “guarantee” programs to make education more affordable and accessible.
Some colleges have made such commitments only to recent high school graduates, but the VanGuarantee applies to all students in the four counties, reflecting VGCC’s longstanding tradition of helping adults retrain for new careers at any age, Dr. Williams explained. Nevertheless, she encouraged 2016 high school graduates to take advantage of the new opportunity to obtain a debt-free college education.
Among the eligibility requirements for the VanGuarantee, students who reside in the college’s service area must enroll in at least nine credit hours per semester in any VGCC curriculum program. They must first apply for and meet the eligibility requirements for federal and state financial aid programs. Next, they will apply for endowed VGCC scholarships. When students still lack the funds to pay for their education after exhausting those and other sources, the VanGuarantee program will help to fill the gap. That makes the program an example of what is often called a “last-dollar scholarship.”
The VanGuarantee will be available in the fall 2016 semester, which starts in August. All residents of the four counties served by the college, regardless of their age or whether they have attended VGCC before, may benefit if they meet the eligibility criteria. Once enrolled in the VanGuarantee program, students must maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average (GPA) to continue receiving the scholarship.
For more information on the VanGuarantee, students can visit www.vgcc.edu/fao/vanguarantee.