Can I Collect North Carolina Unemployment Benefits & Attend School?

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When you have an open unemployment insurance claim with the North Carolina Employment Security Commission (NC ESC), you must be able to work and available for work to continue receiving benefits on a weekly basis. Even with this provision, you are encouraged to attend school. The NC ESC has programs that provide financial assistance for training while you collect unemployment. If this financial assistance is not enough, there are other programs for which you may be eligible because you are receiving unemployment.

Federal Approval

In February 2009, President Obama signed a $787 billion economic stimulus bill that included money to help get the unemployed back to work through training. He directed the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Education to work together to inform the unemployed about their training opportunities -- a joint venture that exists through the website As a person collecting unemployment benefits, you are encouraged to and have resources available to attend school and improve your chances of becoming re-employed.

Trade Adjustment Assistance

The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is a program operated by the NC ESC that provides training in a new field for people who will lose their jobs as a result of increased imports from other countries. Classroom training, full-time or part-time and online with approval, is one of the training options in this program. In addition to regular unemployment insurance benefits, you can receive a trade readjustment allowance if you are unemployed beyond 26 weeks, a job search allowance of up to $1,500 for job interview travel over 60 miles from home, a relocation allowance of up to $1,500 for moving to start a permanent job over 60 miles from home, a tax credit for health insurance coverage for 65 percent of the premium cost and other benefits addressing re-employment. The trade readjustment allowance is a weekly benefit that is the same amount as your weekly unemployment insurance payment which, if you are in training, you can receive up to 130 weeks after exhausting standard unemployment benefits.

Workforce Investment Act

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program hosted by the NC ESC and funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce provides money for training in areas in which you have already worked yet need additional education in for reemployment. You can access this program by attending an orientation program, taking a basic assessment test and interviewing with a WIA counselor to discuss your needs. The program also provides job counseling and other job search assistance resources to participants.

Financial Aid

Your eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant and other financial-need-based aid may strengthen since you draw unemployment benefits. Although your salary from the previous year may seem to make you ineligible, sharing your unemployment status with your school's financial aid office may support adjustments made on your behalf to make you eligible for need-based aid. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by going to or calling (800) 4-FED-AID to request a paper application. The College Foundation of North Carolina ( also provides financial aid to attend North Carolina schools.