Community college leaders plan to request additional funding to compensate tuition losses from enrollment declines due to Hurricane Florence in next fiscal year's state budget.
"As students were scattered to the wind from the storm, many lost jobs and homes," said Peter Hans, president of the North Carolina Community College System. "They weren't able to continue with their studies. And of course, that impacts our budget. More importantly, it impacts those students."
Last fall, state lawmakers allocated $4.9 million for emergency grants to help community college students in 21 Hurricane Florence-hit counties cover educational costs, including textbooks, transportation, tuition fees and living expenses. "We hope that will cushion any drop in enrollment," Hans said. "But we won't know until the next month or so - during this spring semester - how many of those students have dropped out."
Even with last year's state grants for students facing hurricane-related hardships, some colleges are still expecting enrollment declines, Hans said. "Hopefully, that won't be a large number, but that's difficult to tell," he said. "In Carteret County, they thought they might have a 20 percent hit in their enrollment."
Each year, the state budget for community colleges is based on the previous year's enrollment. The state's college system won't have an exact amount to request until next month, when colleges will have their final spring registration totals.