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The Carolina Covenant in action

Carolina Covenant director Candice Powell reflects on the impact of the program and planning its future success.

Students hug at commencement.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill celebrates the graduation of more than 6,000 students at the annual Spring Commencement May 12, 2019 at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Since the first class of scholars enrolled in 2004, the Carolina Covenant has been awarded to more than 8,900 students whose contributions and successes are, collectively, a testament to the University’s unwavering commitment to excellence.

Through a combination of grants, scholarships and work-study jobs, the Carolina Covenant provides eligible low-income students the opportunity to graduate from Carolina debt-free. In return, Covenant Scholars bring to UNC-Chapel Hill strengths and talents that are critical to the University’s mission to serve as a center for research, scholarship and creativity and critical to our goal to teach the next generation of leaders. When we are able to attract the highest talent and the greatest diversity of views and backgrounds to Carolina, all students benefit, not just Covenant Scholars.

“As we reflect on the impact the Carolina Covenant has had on thousands of students over the past two decades, we are also celebrating how the University has benefitted from the perspectives, skills, knowledge and wisdom these scholars bring to Carolina,” said Candice Powell, director of the Carolina Covenant. “Each and every scholar is an asset to our institution — not in spite of where they came from but because of where they come from.”

Big plans for the Covenant

Powell was named director of the Carolina Covenant in August 2019, and she has big plans for the Covenant’s future.

“At this point, we’ve observed an entire generation of students come through the program,” she said. “I can’t think of a better time to reassess and consider how students’ needs and circumstances have changed as we study the impact of the Covenant.”

Powell shared that the key components of this reassessment include research, evaluation and investment — but, most of all, it involves listening.

“We are in the process of developing a qualitative study, where we ask students who they say they are,” emphasized Powell.

The Carolina Covenant Program also convened a new Student Advisory Council, which consists of 10 outstanding students selected from more than 70 applicants.

“These are students who want to be involved in helping to set the vision of the Covenant and impact the experience of their peers and future generations,” added Powell. “For us, the Covenant is our students and the commitment that so many have made to Carolina. The students should be our partners in everything we do.”

Current need in the wake of COVID-19

Currently, more than one in 10 students at Carolina are Covenant Scholars, and Powell expects students’ financial needs to increase tremendously in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Already, the University anticipates needing up to an additional $15 million in aid in 2021–22, which would represent an 18% increase over the prior year.

“It’s especially critical that we do everything we can to attract high-achieving students to our institution and to support them, regardless of their financial circumstances,” said Powell. “The benefit of the Covenant is that it is not just financial aid. It’s a facilitator of high-impact opportunities and connections that help students apply their talents and gifts in a way that will help them fulfill their purpose in the wider world that we all share.

“Private support matters in ensuring that we can continue the scope of the Covenant for generations to come.”

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