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MTCC Enrollment Up 17% Due to Free College

Enrollment is up over 17% over last fall at McDowell Technical Community College.

The increase is primarily due to the college’s Learn and Grow Scholarship program, providing tuition-free college and other assistance to students.

The tuition-free scholarship program extends into 2022 and registration for the spring semester is underway.


In an October, 2021 report to the State Board of Community Colleges, the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) President, Thomas Stith III, reported that system-wide the full-time equivalent (FTE) was up 3 percent over Fall 2020 based on preliminary reports from all 58 institutions.

McDowell Tech was one of the few colleges in the system to see double-digit increases.

“We are pleased that we have been able to leverage various funding sources to create and sustain the Learn and Grow Scholarship program and generate so many career-enhancing opportunities for residents in our area,” said Dr. Penny Cross, Vice-President for Learning and Student Services at McDowell Tech. “The influx of new students is also proving to be a ray of hope for local and regional businesses and industries who have experienced consistent labor shortages over the last couple of years, particularly in skilled, semi-skilled and health or technical career fields—the type for which we train people.”

Community colleges received additional funds this year to support students through the Longleaf Commitment Grant that provides free tuition for two years to eligible 2021 and 2022 high school graduates. The program was also recently expanded to include 2020 high school graduates.

MTCC combined its Higher Education Emergency Relief Act funding into a “last-dollar” scholarship aligned with its new college vision statement:  We will learn and grow, while focusing on individuals, our community, and our institution.

The Learn & Grow Scholarship drew approximately 400 applications for the Fall 2021 semester, and the Financial Aid Staff is seeing this new scholarship program as an avenue to meet students’ needs and transform their lives through critical workforce development programs.

“We have seen so many people apply for the Learn and Grow Scholarship this fall who had been negatively impacted by the pandemic and needed assistance to train for a new job,” said Lisa Byrd, Director of Financial Aid, “Others had always wanted to attend college but couldn’t afford to do so. The Learn and Grow Scholarship funds have been a lifeline to all of these folks—our friends and our neighbors.”

Learn & Grow Scholarships are also available for short-term workforce development programs such as Phlebotomy, Nurse Aide, Basic Law Enforcement, and more.

For more information about the program, or to start an application, visit


Graduates of healthcare programs continue to be in high demand regionally and nationally. McDowell Tech plans to start a standalone Associate Degree Nursing program in the Fall of 2022, pending approval by the State Board of Nursing. For information about how to apply, contact Belinda Foster at [email protected].edu or 828-652-0611.

Julie Padgett Buchanan

Keeping the Faith

A sweet and loving child of God returned to her heavenly father in the still and quiet of a bitterly-cold January morning earlier this week. Julie Buchanan, better known to most of her McDowell Tech family as Julie Padgett, ended her battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, on Wednesday, just a little more than 21 months after she was officially diagnosed with the disease.

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