Dare pledges $250,000 in COA scholarships for local grads

By on June 10, 2019

Major renovations are in store for COA.

Major renovations are in store for COA.

As documents go, government budgets are pretty dry. But within them, away from the tedious line-by-line entries for the functioning of government, are the aspirations of area residents.

That is certainly the case with the Dare County budget that was passed unanimously on Monday.

On page A54, a single entry under Dare County Campus (COA) reads, “Scholarships … $250,000.”

The funds are for graduating seniors from First Flight and Manteo High School or Cape Hatteras Secondary School, and it offers the possibility of two years of free higher education. There doesn’t seem to be another program as inclusive in the state.

“I worked really hard to get this included,” Bob Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners said. “This is for graduating seniors from Dare County schools.”

Although the details of how the funds will be distributed still need to be worked out, generally, according to Woodard, any graduating senior who wishes to attend COA as a full-time student will have their tuition paid for by the county.

It is still unclear if the scholarships will apply only to students seeking an academic AA — which is 80% of the Dare Campus enrollment — or include students working toward certifications in building trades or tourism.

Dare County Board Chair Bob Woodard. “It was his brainchild and it does speak to his vision,” Artie Tillett said. (Kip Tabb)

Nonetheless, Arty Tillett, assistant superintendent of Dare County Schools, sees the scholarship program as a positive with no downside.

“We’re very excited about this,” he said. “It’s a win-win all around. It’s definitely visionary.”

“I don’t know of a better investment than to get your associate’s degree,” he goes on to say. “And then transfer to a four-year school or go into the workforce.”

The county has already been paying for Dare County students taking COA classes while still in high school. Tillett points to that as a first step in the program.

“A lot of them (students) are starting in high school and getting courses under their belt,” he said.

Tillett goes on to praise Woodard for his leadership on the plan: “It was his brainchild and it does speak to his vision,” he said.

What the $250,000 fund the county is providing, however, differs significantly from paying for college courses for high school students. This program is designed specifically to pay for the first two years of undergraduate studies, materially reducing student debt if the student goes on to get a four-year degree.

There is another potential benefit of the program — higher enrollment.

The Dare County Campus of COA is about to undergo a complete overhaul. What was once the Manteo Middle School and is the largest building on the campus will be demolished and a new building or buildings will rise in its place. A final determination has not been made concerning what will replace the structure.

The county has budgeted $7.5 million to the project and the state has pledged an additional $1.5 million. With a $9 million investment in improved and new facilities, county officials are hoping the Dare campus will increase its course offerings.

One of the most important element that school administrators use to determine funding and course offerings, is how many full-time students are on campus, evaluated as a Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) student.

The easy equation is that two students attending classes taking half of a full course load would be considered one FTE. The equation tends to be a bit more complex, but generally that’s how it’s applied.

“Hopefully we’ll be over 300 FTEs on the campus,” Woodard said. “That could make some things happen. Eventually, looking long-term, there could be more classrooms and classes.”

There are still some questions about the specifics of how the scholarships will be implemented. However, educators and county officials are expressing optimism about the program.

“This is a really good idea that benefits kids and simultaneously benefits the county,” Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said.

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Alexander Hollingsworth

Woodard is sounding more and more like Elizabeth Warren!

The Captain

Scholarships to COA is the most fantastic thing DARE County has ever done, EVER!

Great step forward – kudos to the board and particularly to Bob Woodard. Not only does this open the door to education for many local students who otherwise couldn’t afford the tuition, it also has great potential to boost the economy for Manteo. The more classes offered, the more potential for drawing students from other parts of the state who would love to attend college in our coastal atmosphere. These potential students would bring their own money for tuition, housing, food, gas – you name it. Given time, COA could be another economic engine for the area.

Carter McKay

Now that Woodard & Company are now using taxpayer funds to subsidize the tuition of county students attending COA perhaps they can begin underwriting the healthcare costs of Dare Countians seeking medical treatment at Outer Banks Hospital.