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Video link: To view the Carolina Covenant TV spot, go to http://www.unc.edu/news/pics/covenant/psa.rm 

Carolina Covenant gains national momentum, support from Roy Williams, CCB

Harvard University and the universities of Virginia and Maryland are among the national campuses following Carolina’s lead by announcing programs similar to the Carolina Covenant. That groundbreaking initiative will make a Chapel Hill education possible debt-free for low-income students beginning next fall. Tar Heel Basketball Coach Roy Williams, his family and the Central Carolina Bank Foundation also have made gifts to the Carolina First campaign to support the program.

The Carolina Covenant was a first for a major U.S. public university when it was announced last fall to emphasize UNC’s traditional commitment to access for those who are academically qualified.

The Carolina Covenant will enable qualified low-income students to come to Carolina and graduate debt-free if they work on campus 10 to 12 hours weekly in a federal work-study job instead of borrowing. UNC will meet the rest of those students’ needs through a combination of federal, state, university, and privately funded grants and scholarships.

Williams, a 1972 Carolina graduate and the nation’s winningest active college coach, and his wife, Wanda, and their children, Scott and Kimberly, have pledged a $100,000 gift to the Carolina Covenant. The Central Carolina Bank Foundation, based in Durham, has become the first foundation to contribute to the Carolina Covenant with a $125,000 gift.

Williams, an Asheville native, also endorsed the Carolina Covenant in a 30-second institutional television message that debuted last season on national and regional television broadcasts featuring the Tar Heels. Carolina will continue using the Williams spot in future game broadcasts and showing it in other venues including at the Dean E. Smith Center.

The spot opens with a narrator noting Carolina’s commitment to excellence, a better future and educating the next generation of leaders in medicine, business, education and other fields. Then Williams discusses one of the university’s latest commitments – the Carolina Covenant – from one of the most picturesque academic settings on campus: the Rare Book Reading Room in the Louis Round Wilson Library.

Says Williams in the spot: "The Carolina Covenant is a promise. It’s a promise to help kids from low-income families get a college education debt-free. It’s a promise that Carolina is proud to make because everyone deserves a shot."

When UNC Chancellor James Moeser announced the Carolina Covenant last October in his "State of the University" speech, Williams called the chancellor to say that he was proud of Carolina’s leadership. He also expressed interest in making a personal gift to assist students with needs the initiative aims to meet.

The coach’s call later gave Moeser the idea to ask Williams to appear in the university’s TV message. (Most networks airing men’s basketball and football games give each campus 30 seconds of air time for an institutional message supplied by the university.)

"The university is grateful for all of Coach Williams’ generous support for the Carolina Covenant and what it stands for: a commitment to access for those students who can make the grade academically regardless of their ability to pay," Moeser said.

Richard Furr, president of CCB, chief operating officer for National Commerce Financial and a 1971 Carolina graduate said Central Carolina Bank was "a Tar Heel born bank making an investment in a Tar Heel bred covenant."

"We are dedicated to building North Carolina’s communities one person at a time," Furr said. "Our investment in the Carolina Covenant will pay generous dividends in students who attend Carolina and enrich the cities and towns to which they return."

Said Moeser, "This leadership gift from CCB sets a standard for others to follow. It reflects the power of corporations to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. We thank CCB for the generous precedent this gift has set to help future Carolina students."

The gifts from the Williams family and CCB counts toward the university’s Carolina First Campaign, a comprehensive, multi-year private fund-raising campaign with a goal of $1.8 billion to support Carolina’s vision of becoming the nation’s leading public university.

Carolina’s initiative comes at time when the cost of college is rising steadily for low-income families. Nationally, the average student loan debt has nearly doubled to $17,000 over the past decade. About one-fifth of the full-time students work 35 or more hours a week.

As a result, many low-income youth abandon plans for college — or drop out — because the burden of that debt and workload is too much. The patterns are even stronger among minority students. Research also shows that low-income families need more information — and greater predictability — about the availability of financial aid.

The Carolina Covenant responds to such concerns. The university already meets 100 percent of the documented financial need 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 reallocations of existing funds in the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid and pledge growing private gifts dedicated to low-income students.

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.

Economic conditions and the rising number of families living in poverty demonstrate the need for the Carolina Covenant. Since one in four North Carolina children now live in poverty, the need for an accessibility initiative like the Carolina Covenant will remain strong. According to the North Carolina Children’s Index of 2002, more than one-third of North Carolina’s families made less than $28,000 a year in 1999, the last year data were available. In fall 2003, 281 of Carolina’s freshmen, or 8 percent of the freshman class, came from low-income families. Most of those — 89 percent — were from North Carolina. More than half were minorities. Federal and state financial aid covered about 60 percent of the college costs for those students.

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