The Carolina Covenant is a pledge made by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to low-income youth. It promises that students who qualify for the Covenant will have the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree at Carolina without having to borrow to meet their financial need.Eligible students (designated as Covenant Scholars) are awarded a combination of grants, scholarships, and/or Work-Study that meets 100 percent of their financial need. Together with the amount the family is expected to pay, this combination of financial aid allows Scholars who work 10-12 hours per week during the academic year to graduate from Carolina debt-free.
But the Carolina Covenant is much more than an exceptional financial aid award. It also incorporates academic and personal support services and special programming to help Covenant Scholars adapt to campus life and succeed in completing their undergraduate degree program.
By making this Covenant, the University hopes to encourage youth from low-income families who want to attend Carolina to prepare academically for admission, knowing they can afford to attend.
While the Carolina Covenant meets 100 percent of each Scholar’s financial need and allows the student to graduate without debt, it is not a “full ride” scholarship. The Covenant cannot replace the amount the family is expected to contribute (if any), based on information reported on the financial aid application form. And the financial aid awarded to Covenant Scholars assumes they will earn a part of their financial aid by working 10-12 hours per week during the academic year.
The Carolina Covenant is directed to students from historically low-income families, as opposed to those whose parent(s) may have had a low income the prior year, but who have assets or other resources to help pay for college costs.
To be considered for the Carolina Covenant, a student must be dependent on his/her parents and meet academic, income, and financial need criteria. North Carolina residency is not required; however, students must meet citizenship requirements and other eligibility standards for federal financial aid programs.
A student may be designated as a Covenant Scholar when he/she is admitted to Carolina as a freshman or transfer student. Continuing eligibility for the special Covenant financial aid award is re-evaluated annually. Eligibility criteria are summarized in the following:
Eligibility Criteria for the Carolina Covenant
Financial Need and Eligibility for Aid
Where can I get more information about being admitted to Carolina?
Where can I get more information about applying for financial aid at Carolina?
Whose income is counted for the Covenant?
Parents’ adjusted gross income is used to determine if a student may be considered for the Covenant. Student income is not counted for this purpose.
What year’s income is used?
The adjusted gross income from the calendar year prior to the start of the academic year is used to determine if a student meets the income cutoff for consideration. For example, 2007 income will be used to establish eligibility for further consideration for the 2009-10 academic year.
Who establishes the federal poverty guidelines?
Poverty guidelines are established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They are updated each year.
Admitted students and continuing Covenant Scholars who complete an application for financial aid are automatically considered for Covenant funding. A separate application is not required.
How do students apply for financial aid?
To apply for financial aid a student must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Board’s PROFILE application. In addition, the student must provide any other documentation needed by Carolina to determine eligibility for financial aid and for Covenant funding. Please note that the priority deadline for financial aid application is March 1, and students must apply for financial aid each year.
Will the information on the FAFSA and PROFILE be checked?
Each student who meets the income criteria for Covenant funding will be required to verify information reported on the FAFSA and PROFILE applications.
Students who qualify for the Covenant will receive a letter from the Director of Scholarships and Student Aid notifying them of their Covenant designation and special award.
To receive a financial aid award under the Carolina Covenant as a sophomore, junior or senior, a student who has been designated as a Covenant student must:
- Meet current income/financial need requirements;
- Be enrolled at Carolina and making steady progress toward a degree;
- Be in compliance with federal financial aid standards and related institutional policies; and
- Meet the March 1 priority application deadline for financial aid.
A student who is designated as a Carolina Covenant Scholar as an entering freshman and who continues to meet eligibility criteria may be awarded as a Covenant Scholar until he or she has completed the requirements for a first baccalaureate degree, up to a maximum of nine semesters. The maximum number of semesters is prorated for Covenant Scholars who enter Carolina as transfer students.
Covenant Scholars receive financial aid covering 100 percent of their documented financial need. In addition, first-year Covenant-aided students receive a “laptop computer grant.” This extra grant is provided to entering students with documented financial need, to enable them to pay for a computer that is in compliance with the University’s laptop computer requirement. (See www.unc.edu/cci for more information about the Carolina Computing Initiative.)
What is documented financial need?
Documented financial need is the difference between the financial aid-recognized costs of attending Carolina for a nine-month academic year and the amount the student and/or his or her family are expected to be able to contribute.
What college costs are recognized?
Financial aid-recognized costs of attendance include tuition and mandatory fees and standardized allowances for room/board, books/supplies, travel, and personal expenses. For current costs of attendance, see www.studentaid.unc.edu.
How is the expected family contribution determined?
The amount the student and his or her family are expected to contribute toward college costs is based on information provided by the student on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Board’s PROFILE applications. The amount families are expected to pay ranges from $0 (for the lowest income families) to the full cost of attendance (for upper income families).
Covenant-eligible students are awarded federal, state, institutional, and/or private grants and scholarships and the amount of Federal Work-Study that can be earned by working approximately 10-12 hours per week in an on-campus job. This combination of grants, scholarships, and Work-Study gives Covenant Scholars the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree at Carolina without having to assume student loans to meet their financial need.
Can a Carolina Covenant Scholar be considered for a merit-based scholarship or other performance-based award at Carolina?
Covenant Scholars will be considered for merit-based or other performance-based awards at Carolina, just like any other student. Being a Carolina Covenant Scholar is a status. A student who meets the eligibility criteria is a part of the Covenant regardless of the source(s) of assistance used to meet his or her financial need. All Scholars receive a combination of financial aid that meets 100% of their financial need – whether the funds are from need-based financial aid or from scholarships.
Scholarships received by a Covenant Scholar from a source outside the University (for example, from a church, community, or civic organization) will count as a resource to help meet the student’s financial need. Therefore, “outside scholarships” received by a Carolina Covenant Scholar must be reported to the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid.
Since scholarships are intended to help pay for college costs, they reduce the amount of other financial aid the student needs. To give a Covenant Scholar the maximum benefit of scholarship(s), Carolina will replace the amount of Work-Study the student would have been awarded by the amount of the scholarship(s). Only if scholarships exceed the standard Work-Study award will the University reduce grant aid. And, the combination of scholarships and financial aid awarded by Carolina will meet 100% of the Covenant Scholar’s financial need.
Research has found that students who work a reasonable number of hours while enrolled in college tend to get better grades and are more likely to stay in school than students who don’t work (or who work too many hours). Work-Study also provides excellent work experience and helps students get to know faculty and staff who may become mentors.
Covenant Scholars are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to work 10-12 hours per week, rather than borrowing. However, a student who is eligible for a Covenant award may choose to borrow, without losing his/her designation as a Covenant Scholar.
Like other financial aid recipients, a student funded by the Covenant may assume a non-need-based student loan, if necessary, to pay for some or all of the expected family contribution. A Covenant-eligible student may also need to borrow to cover a portion of a higher-cost study abroad program or to enroll during the summer.
Covenant Scholars may live on- or off-campus. However, the amount of financial aid cannot be increased if a student chooses more expensive housing or makes other personal budget decisions that cost more than the allowances for all financial aid recipients. Therefore, students who live off-campus must make wise choices about living expenses and budget carefully to cover rent, food, utilities, and other living costs over the full semester.
Will Covenant Scholars receive financial aid if they attend summer school? If so, what is the application process?
The special Carolina Covenant financial aid award is generally available only during the regular academic year. Like other financial aid recipients, Covenant Scholars who elect to attend summer school will be awarded loans and Work-Study for that period.
However, an exception will be made for Covenant Scholars who are required to attend one or both summer sessions to remain academically eligible for continued enrollment and who enter into a contract to follow an agreed-upon academic plan of action.
To be considered for summer aid, a student must complete a summer financial aid application by the specified deadline. For information about how to apply, please see: http://studentaid.unc.edu.
Carolina Covenant Scholars may use their financial aid award to participate in a UNC Study Abroad program during the regular academic year. Since the only type of financial aid available for Study Abroad during the summer is loans, Covenant Scholars are encouraged to participate in Study Abroad programs during the regular academic year.
The cost for many Study Abroad programs is about the same amount as a semester on-campus. In that case, financial aid will cover most or all of the cost.
If a Covenant Scholar elects a higher cost Study Abroad program, he or she may apply for a scholarship or assume a student loan to cover the added cost.
Students who receive financial aid under the Covenant will be identified and tracked in the University’s financial aid system. However, the identity of Covenant students will be protected, in keeping with Carolina’s confidentiality policies regarding the disclosure of personal information. The names of Covenant Scholars may be released to Carolina faculty and staff who have a legitimate educational interest, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Otherwise, the identification of Covenant Scholars will not be disclosed without the student’s permission.
Carolina offers an exceptional financial aid program for all students with financial need. The University meets 100 percent of the documented financial need of undergraduate students who apply for aid on time. An on-time undergraduate financial aid recipient typically receives two-thirds of his or her financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships, and one-third in loans and/or Work-Study. In addition, the University awards a “laptop computer grant” (above and beyond the financial aid award) to all entering students with documented financial need to help them buy a computer that is in compliance with the University’s laptop computer requirement.
Will the cost of providing Covenant awards reduce financial aid or eliminate Work-Study jobs for other students?
No. Funding will be added to cover the cost of the additional grants/scholarships awarded to Covenant Scholars, and Work-Study will still be readily available to other financial aid recipients.
Faculty and staff throughout the University are committed to helping ensure that Covenant Scholars have every opportunity to succeed. Covenant Scholars, like all other students at Carolina, have been admitted to the University on the basis of their academic strength. But, like other students, they may experience challenges in adapting to a large University setting or to various aspects of college life.
The Covenant incorporates academic and personal support services and special programming to help Scholars get off to a good start at Carolina and reach their educational goals. Support services and programming include Covenant orientation sessions, mentoring, academic and personal interest workshops, and social events.
You can get more information about the Carolina Covenant on-line, in person, by telephone, or by e-mail.
To ask a UNC financial aid representative a question on-line, you may send an e-mail directly to Ask the Experts.
You may also drop by the office or contact us by mail, telephone, or e-mail:
Office of Scholarships and Student Aid
111 Pettigrew Hall
Campus Box 2300
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-2300
Telephone: (919) 962-8396