College scholarships cut for children of North Carolina veterans


A huge American flag is carried down Sumter Street during the 35th Annual Veterans Day Parade in Columbia, South Carolina, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Jeff Blake/The State/MCT)


Children of North Carolina veterans are paying an unexpected extra cost for college this semester after unfortunate news about Thanksgiving — their scholarship funding has been cut.

The North Carolina Scholarship for Children of Wartime Veterans funds eight semesters at public, private, or community colleges across the state for the children of “deceased, disabled, combat, or prisoner veterans.” of war / MIA”. In addition to tuition and fees, students who receive the scholarship are entitled to a room and board allowance.

The problem is a change the program went through in 2018-19, according to Larry Hall, secretary of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“We already had more students this year than last year. Now we’re going to have even more, but we have less money,” Hall told the McClatchy News Group on Friday. “It’s essential for people to understand: it stretches both ways, it’s by no means a static situation.”

The students were told Thanksgiving week that they would only get a little more than half of what the universities had originally budgeted for room and board, according to WBTV, which first reported the story.

Hall said the broadcaster’s report was in error when it said the DMVA had not awarded any of the scholarship funds and “misrepresented legislative budget cuts to the program.”

Under the current funding, students at public universities who received $3,200 for room and board in the 2018-19 academic year will now receive $1,825, according to the DMVA.

Community college students who previously received $850 for room and board will now receive $600.

The DMVA received $9.19 million a year to fund the program, Hall said in a statement Thursday. But last year, he said, the General Assembly allocated an additional $2.4 million to increase the room and board allowance.

Hall requested the same level of funding from lawmakers for the 2019-2020 academic year, according to the statement.

“Despite passing several priority funding bills throughout the summer and fall, lawmakers adjourned without providing additional funding for this program,” he said in the statement. “Beneficiary establishments were informed of the impact on room and board prices on November 25.”

Hall told McClatchy that each university calculates their students’ needs differently based on their different scholarships and other forms of financial aid.

Schools were counting for the additional $2.4 million in funding when they estimated semester bills for students who receive the Wartime Veterans’ Children’s Bursary, he said. But they were warned in September that payments would be “delayed until further notice”, according to the DMVA.

It wasn’t until November 22, when the universities received a second letter from the DMVA, that they knew the funding would be insufficient.

“The department will pay tuition and fees as set forth in GS 143B-1225 and will reduce room and board payments as permitted in GS 143B-1227(c) to fund tuition and fees. fee required,” the letter read.

In Thursday’s statement, Hall said lawmakers — including Republican House Speaker’s representative Tim Moore — promised to provide the additional funding.

“Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader and Appropriations Chairman Harry Brown advised DMVA staff that funding would only be provided in exchange for Legislative Democrats joining Republicans to override the budget veto,” he said.

But Republicans have accused the DMVA and Gov. Roy Cooper of intentionally withholding funds for the scholarship.

Republican Sen. Phil Berger said on Facebook Friday that the department “had $9.2 million in an account since July 1” and “distributed $0, leaving veterans’ children unable to enroll in classes the semester.” neighbor or to pay their bills”.

But the DMVA has already paid private and community colleges for the fall semester, Hall said in Thursday’s statement. All but two public universities in the UNC system, which did not submit final invoices, also received payment.

Republican Senator Danny Britt suggested Cooper was holding the money “hostage … for the purpose of gaining political advantage.”

“The DMVA has been claiming for weeks that the delay in scholarship funding was due to the budget impasse. The $9.2 million in scholarship funds was recurring money, meaning no matter what happened with the budget, the department could spend it. The money has been in the ministry’s account since July 1, 2019,” Britt said in a news release on Friday.

In a letter to Britt on Dec. 3, Hall said “it’s wrong for the department to withhold funds for scholarships,” saying lawmakers were “playing politics with funds for students.”

The UNC System Board of Governors has asked schools participating in the scholarship program “to be flexible and avoid penalizing these students in need while we work with the General Assembly to identify a long-term funding solution. term”.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the Cooper administration waited until November to notify recipients that it was cutting the North Carolina Scholarship for Children of Wartime Veterans,” the president said Friday. of the board, Randy Ramsey, in a press release. “Children of wartime veterans should not be used as political pawns in budget negotiations.”

Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, said in a tweet: “There is no excuse for the Department of Military and Veterans to hold these funds – #NCGA has already provided the necessary funds. These scholarships should not be taken away – these families have already sacrificed so much for our country. They deserve better.

The governor’s office told the McClatchy News Group in a statement Friday that Cooper is still urging lawmakers to provide the additional funding.

“Students eligible for Children of Wartime scholarships and their families have earned them, and it is deeply disappointing to see lawmakers refuse to fully fund these scholarships,” said spokesperson Ford Porter.

This story was originally published December 6, 2019 5:57 p.m.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now in North and South Carolina, from breaking news to funny or interesting stories from across the region. He graduated from NC State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter for The Charlotte Observer, covering breaking news and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She holds a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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