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FIRST ON 3: CFCC facing huge budget cuts; tuition hike likely

READ MORE: FIRST ON 3: CFCC facing huge budget cuts; tuition hike likely
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Just days after graduation, community colleges across North Carolina got news of a potential 12 percent funding cut from the state. Students who rely on scholarships from the North Carolina Education Lottery may also lose funding.

The North Carolina House version of the budget cuts all lottery-funded scholarships for community college students and approves a 10 percent cut from state funding, but the Senate has proposed an additional two percent cut.

"Things that I know how to do are not really marketable anymore, so I want to come and see if I can get another degree and put myself into a more lucrative career field," Chris Richards said.

Richards hopes to start at Cape Fear Community College in the fall, but state budget cuts are making it more difficult for him. Trying to get more money into county school systems, lawmakers want to take scholarship money from the lottery away from community colleges.

CFCC President Eric McKeithan says the loss of scholarships is bad. He says the extra two percent cut is even worse, and would mean turning away more applicants, less class availability and higher tuition.

"The very people who need us most, those people that have already lost jobs, those people that are fearful that their job will disappear, that are turning to community colleges all across North Carolina and looking for retraining in a field where there is a good strong job market, more of them will not be able to get in to community colleges as a result of this budget cut," McKeithan said.

McKeithan said the cut would be around $750,000. That's money necessary for providing supplies for programs like nursing, mechanics and truck-driving and training people of all ages take advantage of.

"You've got to measure North Carolina's recovery in this economy by the success of people that are losing their jobs or that are fearful of losing their jobs, of being able to provide job training to enable them to work in a field that's going to provide income for themselves and their families," McKeithan said.

Richards said, "Education should be the absolute last thing to get cut. This is what's going to bring up our bottom end, is getting people without the college degree, these people who don't have marketable careers anymore, into school, get them trained, get them learning."

President McKeithan hopes some of the lottery money will be returned for community college financial aid, but he said a tuition increase of $10 per credit hour is most likely inevitable.

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