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The Campaign for Carolina initiative allowed for fundraising growth over the decade


Mikayla Gossa, a junior media and journalism student, is one of the more than 1-in-10 UNC undergraduate students the Carolina Covenant serves ever since it's launch in 2004. Goss said she would not have been able to attend UNC if it were not for the program. She is pictured here on UNC's campus on Dec. 2, 2019.

Present and future UNC students may be able to attend the University because of the Campaign for Carolina, which was publicly launched in 2017.

One such student is junior Mikayla Goss, who is a part of the Carolina Covenant program. The campaign aims to raise support for this program, which gives eligible low-income students the opportunity to graduate UNC debt-free, among other scholarships.

Goss, from Newport, North Carolina, said her family is still paying off her sister’s college debt. Without the Carolina Covenant, she said she wouldn’t be able to afford to attend UNC.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity to get the best education I can,” Goss said. “A college degree can really set you aside when applying for jobs.”

When it was publicly launched, the Campaign for Carolina was one of the largest fundraising campaigns in the country and the biggest in the school’s history, with a goal of raising $4.25 billion by the end of 2022. The campaign is over halfway completed, having raised $2.97 billion through over 175,000 donors.

The University wants to raise $1 billion for scholarships and fellowships in many areas, such as the Carolina Covenant and the Blue Scholars program for middle-income students.

“We know it’s not easy to get acceptance and admission to Carolina,” David Routh, vice chancellor for University development, said. “But, for anyone who does, we don’t want financial things to stand in the way of either getting here and staying here or being successful here.”

This is what the campaign calls The Carolina Edge initiative, which aims to eliminate financial barriers to a UNC education.

The Carolina Edge was one of three "Signature Initiatives" included in the For All Kind: Campaign for Carolina launch in 2017. The other two initiatives included Arts Everywhere and The Institute for Convergent Science.

Other goals for the campaign include making changes in curriculum and teaching methods, providing access to global experiences and experiential learning, supporting faculty to recruit and retain world-class professors and increasing innovation and impact research, along with modernizing buildings and spaces.

The University's previous campaign, the Carolina First Campaign, raised about $2.38 billion from 1999 to 2007.

This was an important milestone for the University and its need for private support, Routh said. He said the annual yearly support numbers for the campaign ranged from $213 million to $343 million in donations in those eight years.

“When we went back into campaign mode for Campaign for Carolina, I think people were ready,” Routh said. “People were ready to listen to strategy for the future, a direction for the future (and) what the funding needs were.”

Routh said the University raised $447 million in the first year of the campaign. In the year of the public launch phase, UNC raised $618 million, and last year, another $602 million.

Lowry Caudill, co-chairperson of the public launch phase of the campaign and former committee member of the Carolina First Campaign, said the biggest difference between the two campaigns is the evolution of philanthropy and the recognition of the important role it plays in funding state universities.

Caudill said the University needs to be as good at philanthropy as any of the private schools in the country, so UNC needs to build the funding infrastructure.

“We were good at philanthropy in the Carolina First Campaign,” he said. “Today, we are as good at philanthropy as anybody in the country, public or private, and our $4.25 billion capital campaign is a demonstration of that.”

Caudill said the impact of the campaign has reached departments throughout the University and serves as a way of reaching out to alumni.

Both alumni and non-alumni have given gift donations to the campaign.

Notable gifts thus far include a $25 million donation to the journalism school from the Hussman family,  $18 million to the College of Arts and Science from the Shuford family and a commitment to donate $100 million to the School of Pharmacy from Fred Eshelman in early 2015.

There have been 418,898 individual gifts in total.

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Routh said the University is well-funded by the state, but to maintain excellence, UNC requires private support, among other things.

The number of donors is powerful, Routh said, and he’s proud of what the Campaign has done for scholarship programs such as the Carolina Covenant.

“I’m amazed by the intellect, and the drive and the grit that those students bring to Carolina,” Routh said.

It’s important to work toward accessibility in higher education, Caudill said, because education is transformative.

“It transforms the individual,” He said. “It transforms a family, and it transforms a community."