Due to the economic impacts of the ongoing pandemic, the N.C. General Assembly is grappling with a state budget shortfall in excess of $4 billion. Though legislators have thus far avoided sweeping reductions to recurring K-12 and higher education budgets, the UNC Tuition Grant for NCSSM Graduates and other important initiatives requiring annual authorization have not been funded for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and it does not appear that the tuition grant will be available for the 2020-21 academic year for 2020, 2019 and 2018 NCSSM graduates.
The General Assembly has now adjourned until late summer, when it may reconvene to further reconcile projected revenues and expenses. If financial conditions improve, the grant could be reinstituted.
To underscore the difficult decisions faced by legislators, Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) issued this joint statement:
“This session, the Senate faced the most difficult three-month period in our memory. Dealing with the simultaneous blows of a public health emergency and economic collapse challenged us, as leaders, in ways we have not experienced previously.
“Disagreements are inevitable, especially in trying times. But this body, as it has done so often in the past, rose to the occasion. Our caucuses found agreement, and oftentimes unanimity, on fraught topics ranging from COVID relief to budgeting to criminal justice reform. We delivered tens of millions of dollars to purchase needed personal protective equipment and to fund COVID testing expansion, changed statutes to meet new realities, and operated in good faith.
“The outlook for the rest of this year is uncertain. If the federal government delivers additional aid that calls for legislative action, we are prepared to return to Raleigh …”
UNC System leaders NCSSM leaders will continue to advocate for the UNC Tuition Grant for NCSSM graduates. The grant was designed to draw more NCSSM graduates into UNC System schools, retaining talent in North Carolina and increasing enrollment and diversity in STEM majors, a UNC System strategic priority.
If you have a personal story of the positive impact of the tuition grant, please share it with Brock Winslow, Vice Chancellor for External Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 416-2864, and consider also sharing it with your legislators. Such stories may inform the deliberations and difficult choices facing legislators during the weeks and months ahead.
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