The fact that Covenant Scholars are from lower-income backgrounds doesn’t get in the way of their academic success. Covenant Scholars do well at Carolina.
Like all other students, Covenant Scholars are admitted to Carolina through the regular competitive admissions process – without regard to financial status. Eligibility for the Covenant is not determined until after a student has been admitted and has applied for financial aid. Therefore, not surprisingly, the average high school grade point averages and SAT scores of Covenant Scholars are comparable to others in their class.
However, a high percentage of Covenant Scholars are the first in their family to attend college. Neither they nor their parents have experienced college and don’t know what to expect. Many attended smaller high schools that did not have as many resources as other schools and experience anxiety about how to fit in on a large campus. They have challenges unlike those of their higher-income peers. Research studies indicate that low-income students facing these challenges are more likely than others to leave college prior to graduation.
Nevertheless, early indications are that Carolina Covenant Scholars are doing much better than what might be expected. Because the Covenant is a relatively young program, it is too early to conclusively report the academic success rate of Covenant Scholars. However, a new study of the first class of Carolina Covenant Scholars shows that the program, which provided a debt-free education, together with a strong support system helps eligible low-income students succeed in the classroom.
- Covenant Scholars withdraw temporarily at a much lower rate than their counterparts who enrolled prior to implementation of the Carolina Covenant;
- Covenant Scholars are still enrolled in Year 4 at almost the same rate as all other students at the University;
- The average grade point average for Scholars at graduation is almost the same as for all students; and
- While the first class of Scholars graduated at a lower rate than other Carolina students, the graduation rate of Covenant Scholars, compared to their counterparts who enrolled prior to the Covenant, was significantly improved.
Students in the first class of Covenant Scholars were almost as likely to be enrolled in year four as all Carolina students (89.6 percent compared to 90.5 percent). Perhaps even more remarkable, the retention rate for Covenant Scholars in year four showed a 5.3 percent rate of improvement, compared to their peers who enrolled the year prior to the Covenant’s implementation.
The first class of Covenant Scholars graduated in nine semesters at nearly the same rate as al students (73 percent, compared to 75 percent). Their grade point average at graduation was within 2/10ths of a point of the average for all students.
It appears that the Covenant is making a difference – and that Scholars are doing well at Carolina.