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Warren Wilson College to offer free tuition to some in-state students

A classroom at Warren Wilson. Photo courtesy of Kyle McCurry.

Warren Wilson College plans to offer free tuition for in-state students who qualify for any state or federal grants. 

The policy, called the North Carolina Free Tuition Plan, will go into effect fall 2018. 

Janelle Holmboe, vice president for enrollment and marketing at Warren Wilson, said the program will cover expenses left over after the students’ outside financial aid is applied. 

“Any student who is a North Carolina resident who is determined to qualify for either a federal or North Carolina state need-based grant is eligible,” she said. “The remainder of their tuition will be covered by Warren Wilson through scholarships and institutional grants.”

Holmboe said the program was created to provide greater access to higher education for students in the area.

“Certainly, we hope to make ourselves a real financially accessible institution for students from the state and grow the enrollment of students from North Carolina,” she said. 

Nestor Ramirez, a doctoral student in the UNC School of Education, said college accessibility is important because getting a college degree benefits both individuals and their communities. 

“One of the main reasons to consider college accessibility is the fact that we talk about higher education as this great equalizer,” he said. “We’re told as children that if we want to succeed, we need to get a college education.”

Ramirez said college is not accessible to everyone because of the rising cost of tuition. 

“We’re telling people that higher education is a meritocracy and if you want to succeed you need to go,” he said. “But then we’re not providing individuals with the means to be able to go.”

The North Carolina Free Tuition Plan website says it seeks to help meet financial needs that stem from these rising costs.

“With the North Carolina Free Tuition Plan, we seek to serve our community in a different way: by making a Warren Wilson education possible for more North Carolina students,” according to the website.

Ramirez said this lack of accessibility may be because the public's opinion of higher education is shifting toward a more negative view.

“One of the problems now when it comes to college accessibility — one that’s particularly relevant to the free college discussion — is that there’s evidence that the views of higher education have become very split across partisan lines,” he said.

Holmboe said Warren Wilson’s program will give students more choice in their education. 

“I think that it gives students in the state of North Carolina more options to seek out the college that is the best fit for them, not just the college that they can afford,” she said.

Ramirez said North Carolina should invest more in education so that more public colleges can implement similar programs for their students.

“I think we need to really push the state as a whole, both the legislature and the public, to convince everyone here that there are a lot of benefits that can be drawn from making sure that anyone can go to college,” he said.


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