HBCUs In UNC System Offering Free Summer Courses To Help Students Advance

·4 min read

As part of various initiatives that directly benefit students, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the UNC System are offering students free summer courses this year.

In addition to free courses, selected students will receive housing discounts, dining discounts and emergency grants. Outstanding bursar balances for current and returning students will be canceled. Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, North Carolina A&T State, North Carolina Central and Winston-Salem State universities have all offered some benefits to their students’ thanks to federal funding provided during the pandemic to HBCUs.

One student, Denise Buckhana, plans to graduate with a degree in computer science from North Carolina A&T State University next spring, debt-free.

Buckhana, who is taking two free summer classes, says after getting married, her husband convinced her to return to school after a break.

“We got married, and for basically our marriage gift, he was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you just quit? So you can go to college,'” Buckhana said. “We’re paying out of pocket right now because I already have loans for Missouri.”

Buckhana was grateful to learn that N.C. A&T was offering free resources to all students this year.

“I didn’t actually know that summer school was free until they were like, ‘Oh, you have nothing on your bill,'” Buckhana said. “I was like, ‘Oh, okay, summer school is free. Oh, that’s fabulous.’ So I grabbed as many classes as I could.”

N.C. A&T allows in-state students to take up to two courses free during the summer and out-of-state students can take one free.

Robert Pompey, N.C. A&T’s vice chancellor for business and finance explained the initiative allows students to catch up with their education as paying for textbooks and other expenses for most students can be challenging when graduating.

“It’s really allowed them to catch up and, in many instances, get ahead,” Pompey said. “What we’re thinking about is, what is it that most challenges a student that’s trying to graduate from a university? Well, one of the things that challenge a student is sometimes they have to make a hard decision: do I buy textbooks? Or do I pay my rent?”

Federal higher education funding must be expended by June 30, 2023.

As the largest HBCU in North Carolina and the country, N.C. A&T received more than $188 million, becoming the school with the most relief funding than any other university in the UNC system.

Through summer 2023, the university will spend about $40 million in relief funds on what Pompey calls student success initiatives.

Additionally, the school offers free summer courses, textbooks, housing and dining discounts for residential students and free iPads for first-year students.

Based on Pompey’s estimates, a university undergraduate eligible for every student success initiative could directly benefit by more than $4,000. While some HBCUs across the country have used their funding toward canceling student debts of former students, Pompey said that North Carolina A&T’s strategy is to prevent student debt.

“All we’re doing is really trying to make you as successful as you can be as a student, get you out of here as timely as we can be,” Pompey said. “And if we’re getting you out here timely, we’re preventing you from having to take additional debt.”

This is the second year that N.C. A&T has offered free summer courses and will be offering free summer classes next year. Pompey says if the initiative significantly impacts four-year graduation rates, the university will look for ways to continue to fund summer courses after federal relief expires June 2023.