Carolina Covenant scholarship awarded to most students ever

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Jazlin Leboy is a Carolina Covenant scholar.

Freshman Jazlin Laboy said her high school prided itself in opening doors to respected universities, but she thought finances would keep her locked out.

After Laboy’s acceptance into UNC, she found out she qualified for Carolina Covenant, a program that allows undergraduate students whose family’s income is 200 percent or less of the federal poverty line to graduate debt-free from college. A student from a family of four entering the program in 2012 would have been eligible if his or her family made less than $44,700 that year.

“Without this program, I don’t think I’d be able to attend such a prestigious school,” she said. “I don’t feel totally lost here. I feel like (Carolina Covenant) was ready for me to be here.”

Carolina Covenant

517
freshman Covenant scholars

132
transfer Covenant scholars

$0
debt of a program participant

This year, more students than ever were accepted into the program. Out of the roughly estimated 3,960 freshmen, 517 are Carolina Covenant scholars, said Ashley Memory, assistant director of admissions.

When the program started in 2003, there were 224 scholars, and that number has risen each year, said Fred Clark, academic coordinator for the program.

“We have made Carolina more accessible to low-income students,” Clark said.

UNC was the first public university to create a program like Carolina Covenant, Clark said.

In addition to the freshmen, 132 transfer students qualified for the program, bringing the total number of scholars to 649 as of Aug. 16 — 70 more students than last year, said Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid.

Ort said 18.6 percent of freshmen are first-generation college students this year, and roughly 7 percent of those students are Carolina Covenant scholars.

Memory said the number of first generation college students at UNC has also risen.

“Their perspective enriches the learning environment of students and faculty,” she said.

The program receives grants from both state and federal funds, and scholars receive work-study jobs. This combination of grants, scholarships and work-study programs allows scholars to graduate debt-free.

Amblessed Onuma, a former scholar who graduated in 2012, said the program relieved his financial burden.

“The program gives you piece of mind in knowing that your education is paid for,” he said.

Now enrolled in UNC’s School of Medicine, Onuma spent the summer of 2012 shadowing surgeons in Malawi through a fellowship offered by Carolina Covenant.

The program also provides scholars with mentors and the chance to attend campus events.

Sophomore Eesim Oon took advantage of vouchers from Carolina Performing Arts to attend a Yo-Yo Ma concert last year. Oon said she is happy she can attend campus arts events.

“I wake up every day knowing that if I didn’t have Carolina Covenant, I wouldn’t be able to go to college, and here I am at the best college in North Carolina.”

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