How do UNC students pay for college?

In the 2016-2017 academic year, more than 8,000 students received some form of need-based aid, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. Approximately 140 merit scholarships are awarded annually to incoming first-years, according to the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid.

Approximately 2,400 students rely on Carolina Covenant, a pledge that eligible students will be able to graduate debt-free from UNC-Chapel Hill. Scholars receive grants, scholarships and work study positions to meet 100 percent of their financial need, according to Brian Hogan, program director.

“Since I’m a Covenant scholar, I don’t have as much of a financial burden as other students that come here,” said Brandon Ivey, a junior economics and public policy major. “I use my rebate checks to fund the rest of my extracurricular activities.”

UNC is one of 16 other universities with a similar program. Hogan said that Covenant scholars receive the Covenant upon enrollment at UNC. Students must be pursuing their first undergraduate degree to be eligible.

Jenna Sedberry, a first-year student at the UNC School of Dentistry, paid for her undergraduate education at UNC through a variety of sources.

“I had two scholarships the entire time that paid for half of [my expenses] and I had a few small scholarships from my senior year,” Sedberry said. “I was also a Covenant scholar. The refund I got from Covenant was always plenty to live off of.”

Many students rely on their parents to pay for their college expenses. According to UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman Survey, 48 percent of UNC’s 2016 respondents, who voluntarily take the survey at orientation, expected their family to cover upwards of $15,000 of their expenses.

Other students look to different ways to pay for their education. Caroline Taheri, a junior transfer student whose father is in the military, uses the G.I. Bill to pay for part of her expenses.

Some students choose to cut down on cost by foregoing a traditional campus experience, and choose to drive from their hometowns for classes. Holly Hicks, a commuter student from Saxapahaw, says she commutes because of how much money it saves her.

“I’m paying for college by myself, and it’s always been a real concern of mine,” Hicks says. “I probably save at least $10,000 a year. I really think that commuting has made my college experience different from everyone else’s. I’ve always felt more like college was a second job.”

But that second job gets pretty complicated.

“I have to drive 30 minutes to get to campus, so I’m not involved in any clubs, and if I want to do something with a friend in Chapel Hill it has to be planned in advance,” Hicks said. “College hasn’t been a bad experience, necessarily, it’s just been an experience.”

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