N.C. State University
February 2, 2007
Following are excerpts adapted from remarks delivered by Chancellor James Moeser as part of a panel discussion on “Keeping the Promise of Affordability.” The two-day Emerging Issues Forum addressed “Transforming Higher Education: A Competitive Advantage for North Carolina.”
Four years ago Shirley Ort [director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid] came into my office and said, “We are meeting 100 percent of the financial need of our students, but we are not doing a very good job of communicating this fact to the students who need it most.”
She went on to make the case that, with a relatively modest commitment of resources, we could create a program in which the neediest students who qualified for admission could graduate debt-free if they would work 10-12 hours a week in a work-study program.
As a result, we created the Carolina Covenant – a promise that we are proud to keep. If you meet our academic standards, financial support is available. If you will do the hard work, take the Advanced Placement courses, make the scores and get admitted, then we will remove any financial barrier to your opportunity for success. While we are highly selective, there is no financial barrier to access for high-ability, low-income students who earn the grades.
All Carolina Covenant students meet the University’s admissions standards; it is a need-blind process. It is only after they are admitted and apply for financial aid that we consider them for the Carolina Covenant.
We are so fortunate to be able to do what we’re doing now, and that is because of a variety of factors. Those reasons include federal grants, as well as the North Carolina General Assembly’s ongoing commitment to funding need-based financial aid. The Legislature increased this funding even in years when state budgets were being cut. Our Board of Trustees has committed to reserving 35 percent of the revenue generated by any campus-based tuition increase to protect low-income students from the financial impact. All revenues from the sales of trademarked licensed products, such as T-shirts and hats, support student scholarships and financial aid. Some universities devote these funds to their athletics programs, but Carolina does not. One hundred percent goes to benefit students who need and deserve assistance. That was an important decision and part of a commitment made by my predecessors that allowed us to offer this level of support to qualified low-income students. Increasing private donor support through our Carolina First Campaign has also been a major factor in the Carolina Covenant’s success.
The Carolina Covenant is not just about getting these deserving students in, but assuring their success once they arrive. In the second year of the program, 98 percent of the Covenant Scholars stayed at the University. That is an astounding success rate.
The Covenant has also had a positive impact on our applications. We are receiving more applications from students from low-income families. Of the entering freshmen class in the year prior to the Covenant, 8.5 percent would have qualified as Covenant Scholars, compared to 11 percent of this year's 2006-07 incoming freshmen class.
We now have almost 1,000 students in this program. We are enormously proud that roughly 25 other institutions around the country have created similar programs. Each program is unique to its institution, but all of them are promising access and affordability.
Each of us must address the issue in our own ways. Community colleges and other institutions are addressing it from their perspectives, but it is also critical for highly selective universities like Chapel Hill to address it. I am proud of UNC for its role in taking the lead nationally in this vital issue.