North Carolina House Votes to Overturn Community College Loan Requirement

March 9, 2011

The North Carolina House of Representatives voted Monday to allow community colleges to opt out of offering low-interest federal loans to their students. The bill, which now goes to the Senate for likely approval, would scale back 2010 legislation requiring all community colleges in the state to participate in the federal loan program by July. Several community college presidents in the state have expressed concern that participation in the federal loan program would put their students at risk of losing federal financial aid if too many students at their institution do not repay their loans. Monday’s vote fell mostly along party lines, with Republicans supporting the opt-out bill and Democrats opposing it. Representative Ray Rapp, a Democrat who voted against the bill, told The News & Observer, “This is a frontal assault on the ability of students to pay for college.” Kennon Briggs, the system's executive vice president, told Inside Higher Ed that last year he had told the state legislature, "We prefer that this be a matter of local decision making and of choice because within our system you have varying degrees of wealth, private support and average income." Still, he clarified that the community college system would follow any directive of the state legislature. If the opt-out bill is signed into law, Briggs said that 24 community colleges in the state would participate in the federal loan program and 34 would not.

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