BTC REPORT: Unmet Financial Need: Expanding Access to Federal Loans to Improve College Completion

By Alexandra Forter Sirota, Policy Analyst
June 24, 2010

Executive Summary

  • Community college enrollment has increased dramatically as students seek to gain the skills for future employment during a tough economic time.
  • The cost of full-time enrollment in community college represents 32 percent of family income for those families in the lowest 40 percent of the income distribution in North Carolina.
  • Tuition for community college represents just a fraction of the costs associated with attending post-secondary education. When costs such as transportation, books and room and board are included, students, on average, face a financial need after financial aid of 80 percent of their education costs.
  • Completion of degree programs is compromised when students face unmet financial need. National evidence suggests that a significant number of students (45 percent) are failing to complete their education programs due to financial strain.
  • North Carolina’s community college students work more hours and are also more likely to enroll part-time than students in four-year universities.
  • Expanding access to the federal student loan program from the current 21 campuses to all 58 North Carolina community college campuses can provide students with an affordable tool to pay for their education expenses. The risks to institutions are minimal and can be managed with planning, investment in the financial education of loan recipients and the support of the State Education Assistance Authority.
  • At a time when unemployed workers are investing in upgrading their skills and the future workforce is preparing for the new economy, financial barriers to completing a certification or degree program should be reduced to ensure North Carolinians can get to work and stimulate local economies.
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