For every Carolina Covenant scholar the University enrolls, it also enrolls two North Carolinian students from a middle-income background. As part of its ongoing wide-scale fundraising campaign, UNC plans to implement a new scholarship program geared toward working households in North Carolina.
The Blue Sky Scholars program was sparked by a $5 million donation from former UNC-system President Erskine Bowles, and the University hopes to raise an additional $15 million to bring the total to $20 million.
The scholarship serves to make college affordable for students who otherwise wouldn't be eligible for other aid programs like the Covenant. The Blue Sky Scholars program specifically targets middle-income North Carolinians, with the hopes that they too can have a financial aid option similar to the Covenant program.
Steve Farmer, vice provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions, said the scholarship will consist of $7,500 a year, renewable for four years. Additionally, it will include $2,500 a year in work study employment.
“If we can help you find a job in a field that's appealing to you, working while you’re an undergrad can improve academic performance,” Farmer said.
The scholarship will also grant recipients a one-time enrichment award of $2,500, which can be used to finance opportunities to enhance their Carolina experience, like internships or study abroad experiences.
Farmer said the enrichment award was integral to the scholarships mission. He said oftentimes students have to turn down potential life-changing opportunities for financial reasons: because their parents can’t afford it or they don’t want to compromise their younger siblings’ chances to attend college.
The donor whose gift made the scholarship possible, Erskine Bowles, has always had an interest in middle-income North Carolinians, Farmer said.
"(Bowles) has a long history of leadership in our state, and really understands that there are hardworking folks all across North Carolina, who get up every day to go to work — schoolteachers, first responders, firefighters, servicemen and women,” Farmer said. “The donor has always had a special place in his heart for working, middle-income families.”
According to a statement from the University, Bowles was born and raised in Greensboro, and graduated from Chapel Hill in 1967. He has been on the boards of Morgan Stanley and Facebook, among other companies. In the 90s, he worked in the Clinton administration, serving as the White House Chief of Staff from 1997 to1998. From 2005 to 2011, he was the president of the UNC System.
“He has been a big admirer of the Carolina Covenant, but he also understood that for every Covenant scholar we enroll, we enroll two middle-income students,” Farmer said. “And he wanted to make sure that the University is doing its best for those students as well, in addition to what its doing for Covenant scholars.”
The statement from the University said middle-income students, which are those whose household incomes average $75,000 per year, make up the majority of North Carolinians who receive need-based aid at UNC.
"For every low-income student eligible for the Carolina Covenant, there are two middle-income students supported by other forms of institutionally funded aid," the statement said. "The average debt for the graduating class of 2017 was approximately $22,000, which is 22 percent less than the national average. The University estimates the Blue Sky Scholars will graduate with debt of $10,000 or less.”
The Blueprint for Next is the University’s big picture plan for its next phase. The Blue Sky Scholars program is a small piece of the larger puzzle, making it easier for academically-minded students from a specific demographic to afford college.
Within the Blueprint for Next is the Campaign for Carolina, the directive responsible for securing the fundraising to achieve the overall strategic goals of the plan. The University describes the campaign as “the most ambitious university fundraising campaign in the Southeast and in Carolina history."
The goal is $4.25 billion. UNC is currently ahead of schedule, with $2.23 billion raised by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.