‘Finish Line Grant’ could help LCC students finish school
Gov. Roy Cooper, left, and Lenoir Community College instructor Andrew Luppino, middle, listen to LCC President Dr. Rusty Hunt Tuesday afternoon. The governor was on hand to promote his 'Finish Line Grant' program. Bryan Hanks / Neuse News
If you’re a Lenoir Community College student facing some tough times, Gov. Roy Cooper has some good news for you.
The governor was in Kinston Tuesday afternoon to announce LCC would the first North Carolina community college to receive part of the $7 million in federal funds that make up a program called “Finish Line Grants.” Cooper said LCC will initially receive $50,000 that will help students pay for course materials, housing, medical needs, dependent care or other financial emergencies students may face through no fault of their own.
Students can receive up to a maximum of $1,000 per semester in the Finish Line program; the caveats being that students must have finished 75 percent of their coursework towards their degree or credential. For now, the program is only accessible to community college students in North Carolina.
Cooper said he established the program to help students who have been down on their luck financially who might be thinking about quitting school because of unexpected expenses.
“A car repair shouldn’t determine your future,” Cooper said at a press conference in the LCC Machining Department Tuesday.
Dr. Rusty Hunt, the LCC president, was excited that his school is the first to receive the funds.
“We’ve got about 825 students, give or take, who are about three-quarters of the way through their program,” Hunt said. “Any type of situation that comes up, be it an auto repair, child care or any other emergency issue, the student historically keeps quiet. They don’t want to ask for help. But with these grant dollars to help those students, it’ll help them complete their course work.”
Hunt said his staff is already promoting the grants and they’re going to continue to get the word out to students via his faculty and staff over the next few months.
“This is a way to help them get over that finish line,” Hunt said.
Cooper toured LCC’s machining technology department Tuesday before speaking to the media. Andrew Luppino, the program chair and instructor in the computer-integrated machining technology department, said he was excited to show Cooper what happens in his working classroom.
“It’s good to see interest at the state level for these industry programs and that we’re not being left behind as far being able to provide for our students so they can get the education they need,” Luppino said. “I love what I do and when I get to share it with someone at the governor’s level, it’s absolutely awesome.”
Luppino agreed with Hunt that the Finish Line Grant program was going to be a big hit at LCC.
“We do get students straight out of high school, but we also see a lot of adult education opportunities,” Luppino said. “They are the ones who are more affected. They are working all the time and can’t necessarily afford to pay for that really quick and unexpected expense. This opportunity to receive help to pay for that car or that child care expense is going to be a huge help for our adult students.”
This is the second time in less than a month the governor has visited Kinston, an observation not lost on some community leaders.
“Gov. Cooper really cares about Eastern North Carolina,” Kinston Mayor Don Hardy said. “He’s really tuned into the East; it shows a lot of respect for the students here at LCC and for the city of Kinston.”
Rob Bizzell, a prominent local businessman, said Kinston, Lenoir County and LCC means a lot to Cooper.
“This shows Kinston is not forgotten and that we’re very important throughout the state,” Bizzell said. “We may not be one of the large metropolises in North Carolina, but his visit shows we’re important to him.”
Kinston businessman and philanthropist Stephen Hill
“Gov. Cooper enjoys coming to Lenoir County and he likes what is going on here,” Hill said. “He thinks what we are doing here is a model to the state and he wants us to continue to grow and be a model. He wants to point to us and say, ‘It can be done.’”
Maggie Brown, the LCC dean of industrial technologies, said the machining department has designed a program for students to attend two nights a week for a year in which they can earn a basic machining certificate. That program begins this week but there are multiple entry points in the semester.
“It will qualify students to take entry level positions,” she said. “It can lead to an associate’s degree, if they’re interested. It can be a short-time training opportunity.”