UNC Initiative to Make College More Accessible for Low-Income Students CHAPEL HILL, N.C.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced a groundbreaking initiative earlier this month to give the children of low-income families an opportunity to attend college — without borrowing a penny.
The initiative, “The Carolina Covenant,” will enable low-income students to come to UNC-Chapel Hill and graduate debt-free if they work on campus 10 to 12 hours weekly in a federal work-study job throughout their four years, instead of borrowing. The university will meet the rest of students’ needs through a combination of federal, state, university and private grants and scholarships.
Carolina already meets 100 percent of the documented financial needs of all students who apply for aid on time, but about a third of that need is being met through loans. To fund the Carolina Covenant, the university will make modest reallocations of existing funds in the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid and pledge growing private gifts dedicated to low-income students. The initiative is expected to cost about $1.38 million annually when fully phased in four years from now.
Carolina is believed to be the first public university in America to launch such an initiative to make college more accessible. Princeton, a private university, has also done much to alleviate the need for student borrowing.
The Carolina Covenant will go into effect next fall for the incoming freshman class of 2004. Eligible students must be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Under current federal poverty levels, a family of four with an annual income of about $28,000 would qualify. For a single parent with one child, the eligible income would be about $18,000.
Chancellor James Moeser announced the initiative in his annual State of the University speech to the campus community. “College should be possible for everyone who can make the grade, regardless of family income,” he said. “A covenant is a promise. With the Carolina Covenant, we are telling students that, despite what you may see in the news, college is affordable, no matter how much money your family makes.”
This fall, 281 of UNC-Chapel Hill’s freshmen — or 8 percent of the freshman class — came from low-income families.
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