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Carolina Covenant

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


What is the Carolina Covenant

The Carolina Covenant is a pledge that qualified low-income students will have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree at Carolina without having to borrow to meet their financial need.

Eligible students are awarded grants, scholarships, and/or a Work-Study job that together meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need. This combination of financial aid, coupled with a family’s contribution to college costs, allows Scholars 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.

Is the Carolina Covenant a “full ride” scholarship?

Technically no. The Covenant covers your full financial need, as determined by your financial aid application.

Depending on your financial circumstances, you and your may be asked to contribute toward the cost of attending Carolina. The Covenant is our commitment that the University will do the rest, without student loans.

What are the eligibility criteria?

The Carolina Covenant is designed for students from low-income families, with limited assets or other resources to pay for college.

Dependent students from both in-state and out-of-state are considered. Independent students from North Carolina are eligible, but out-of-state independent students are not. Both first-year and transfer students are eligible. Students must meet citizenship requirements and other eligibility standards for federal financial aid.

Aid is reevaluated annually, and substantial changes in a family’s financial circumstances can result in a change in aid.

Eligibility Criteria for the Carolina Covenant


  • Admitted to/enrolled at Carolina
  • Pursuing first undergraduate degree*
  • Making steady progress toward a degree
  • Enrolled full-time during regular academic year (students enrolled in continuing studies are not eligible)

* Enrolling in professional programs, like the PharmD program, will affect eligibility. Graduate and professional students are not eligible for undergraduate scholarship programs.


  • For independent in-state students, the student’s adjusted gross income (AGI) does not exceed 200% of federal poverty guidelines (based on family size; see below).
  • For dependent students, parents’ adjusted gross income (AGI) does not exceed 200% of federal poverty guidelines (based on family size). For the 2019-20 academic year, parents’ adjusted gross income in 2017 did not exceed the following amounts:
Family Size* Max AGI
2 $32,480
3 $40,840
4 $49,200
5 $57,560
6 $65,920

*For each additional family member, add $8,360

Financial Need and Eligibility for Aid

  • Financial need, based on information reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Board’s PROFILE application.
  • Limited assets and/or other resources with which to pay for college costs.
  • Eligible for federal student financial aid.

Where can I get more information about being admitted to Carolina?

Telephone: (919) 966-3621

Where can I get more information about applying for financial aid at Carolina?

Telephone: (919) 962-8396

What year’s income is used?

Income from two years prior to the start of the academic year is evaluated. For example, 2017 income is used  to assess eligibility for the 2019-20 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.

How do students apply for the Covenant?

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.

How will a student know he/she is a Carolina Covenant Scholar?

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.

What are the requirements for renewal?

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.

For how long may a student receive a Covenant award?

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 eight semesters. The maximum number of semesters is prorated for Covenant Scholars who enter Carolina as transfer students.

Enrolling in specialized professional programs available to undergraduates, like the PharmD program, may affect eligibility for the Covenant financial aid package.

How much financial aid will be awarded to students who receive Covenant funding?

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 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

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).

What types of financial aid will Covenant students receive?

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.

What if a Covenant Scholar receives an outside scholarship?

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.

Why are Covenant Scholars awarded Work-Study as a part of their financial aid?

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.

Are there circumstances in which a Covenant-aided student may need to borrow?

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.

Can a Carolina Covenant Scholar live off-campus?

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:

May Covenant Scholars use their financial aid to attend a UNC Study Abroad program?

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.

More information about financial aid for Study Abroad can be found here, or check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Will the identity of Covenant students be made public?

Not without your permission. 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.

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.

What happens to students who are needy, but who don’t qualify for the Covenant?

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.

What other services are available to Covenant Scholars?

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.

Where can I get more information about the Carolina Covenant?


Submit a question directly using our online form, or

You can 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