they agree to work 10 to 12 hours weekly in work-study. We meet the rest of
their needs through a combination of federal, state, university, and other
privately funded grants and scholarships.
We had sound educational reasons for creating this program. And it fit our
core values as a university—primarily that access to higher education is the
key to opportunity. We were concerned that North Carolina’s brightest high
school students from low-income families believed they couldn’t afford to
come to Carolina. We wanted to send the message that college is possible for
high-ability, low-income students from any community or any background,
who have the grades and motivation.
Part of our interest in advancing this program was the dramatic
demographic shift in North Carolina. The state was experiencing rapid
population growth—and increasing diversity. The Hispanic population was
skyrocketing. At the time, our median family income was dropping, and the
poverty rate ranked 14th in the country.
The response to this program, conceived by our Director of Scholarships
and Student Aid Shirley Ort, championed by then-Chancellor Moeser, has
been very strong. More than 80 other campuses, public and private—likely
on some of the same campuses represented in this room—have adopted their
own versions of the covenant as part of the massive overall shift we’ve seen
in financial aid practices.
Last May, the first class of Carolina Covenant Scholars graduated.
Currently, about 1,500 of these covenant students are studying at the
university; since the program’s inception nearly 1,800 undergraduates have
benefited. Students of color have represented about 60 percent of all Carolina
Covenant Scholars; and 60 percent were first-generation college students.
We are still carefully studying and analyzing the experiences our
Covenant Scholars are having in Chapel Hill. Preliminary data show a
very high retention rate—in the 90 percent range—and we are encouraged by
that finding. The program is not solely academic. An added strength of the
program is a mentoring component. Faculty and staff have been enthusiastic
in volunteering to participate—another indication of the campus-wide support
and enthusiasm for this program. It has also been the focus of some fund-
raising efforts, and it has been highlighted by our basketball coach, Roy
Williams, in a TV public service announcement airing during national and
regional broadcasts of football and basketball games. That TV spot has helped
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