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Out-of-state students may face difficulty in affording UNC


Source: UNC Office of Undergraduate Admissions

Of the 30,000 out-of-state residents who applied to UNC this year, only a handful will be granted admission, and even fewer will be offered a financial aid package. This roadblock has prevented thousands of potential out-of-state students from accepting their offer of admission, and the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid has its hands tied by North Carolina policies. 

Full tuition, in addition to room and board, can cost upwards of $50,000 for out-of-state students. 

“We work hard to make Carolina affordable for every student who earns admission, but there are circumstances where Carolina might not be the right financial choice for an out-of-state family,” said Eric Johnson, assistant director of communications for the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid. “That’s something we regret, but it’s a matter of statewide policy that more heavily subsidizes resident students.” 

Although the legislature-mandated policy ensures the vast majority of students at UNC are North Carolina residents, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions still recruits outside of the state through electronic and print services. They also send recruiters to major U.S. cities, like New York City and Washington, D.C. Furthermore, campus tours and programs are available for admitted students. 

First-year Alec White is from Virginia and came to campus for a weekend dedicated to students who applied early action. 

“It was a one-day event and I had to pay for my travel, but meals were free,” White said. “There were so many social and University departments who contacted me.” 

Despite the assurance that White would be included in Carolina’s social scene, he said finances played the biggest role in his decision. He knew he needed aid to come here, and had he not received it, he would have stayed in Virginia. 

The Office of Scholarships and Student Aid still meets full financial need for non-resident students, and they are still eligible for grant funding and the Carolina Covenant, a program that allows eligible low-income students to graduate debt-free. 

“Non-residents overall are more likely to be offered student loans as part of their aid package, and non-resident families are often asked to contribute more than a similar in-state family, simply because costs are higher," Johnson said. 

These costs were too high for Virginia resident Jack Rasmussen, a first-year at the University of Virginia who was admitted to UNC early action. 

“I'm super fortunate that my parents have been able to save up to pay for my college education, but I knew that going to UNC would still be a strain financially,” Rasmussen said. “Going to UVA would save my family $20,000 a year.” 

Rasmussen knew it was unlikely he would receive aid from UNC, yet he still applied because of its reputation as a school with a balance between work and play. The University pulls 6.8 percent of its 25,000 domestic non-resident applicants from Virginia, which has the fifth-highest number of non-resident applications. 

Around 4,500 applications are international — China, Mexico, Brazil and India are among the countries in the top 10. First-year Surya Govindaswaami applied from India, and was met with a financial aid package that has reduced his semester costs to under $300. 

“I was already leaning towards Carolina, and once I got back all my aid packages from all other universities, the one from Carolina was still the highest,” Govindaswaami said. “In some way, you’re a minority because you’re an out-of-state student. To be honest, I felt special just because I was admitted.” 

Being a member of this non-resident minority has its disadvantages, as White and Govindaswaami pointed out. They both said they had trouble making friends initially because their networks were not as extensive as in-state students. 

Despite the challenges non-residents face at Carolina, tens of thousands of applications continue to pour in each year from across the United States and the world. The Office of Scholarships and Student Aid maintains an effort to be straightforward with out-of-state families, as North Carolina policy requires that financial assistance must be prioritized for in-state applicants.

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