with a clearer picture of what life really is
like in Chapel Hill.
“Coming here and seeing and interacting and then saying, ‘This isn’t for me,’
that’s OK, but we want them to see,” said
recruiter Andrew Parrish.
The stakes, as UNC plans to grow its
enrollment to 33,000 from 28,000 over the
next decade, are high.
Assuming the 18 percent cap on out-of-state admissions (which is not an issue
for many of Carolina’s competitors) will
not change, UNC could see declines in
applicant quality. The study group’s report
said the number of top SAT scorers in the
state had changed little in the last 10 years
and was not likely to grow substantially in
the years ahead.
Of one thing, admissions officials are
certain: Students inquiring about application and those poring over multiple
acceptances are watching those statistics. If
they sense the slightest decline, they could
lose interest quickly.
Money as no object
“I speak for all of us who could not afford
to go to Duke, and would not have even if we
could have afforded it.”
Charles Kuralt ’ 55 got the big laugh
at the UNC Bicentennial celebration.
But his zinger is not on the top 10 list
at the admissions office. More of the
17-year-olds who come through the
doors at Jackson Hall are sizing Carolina
up against Duke. And Harvard and
Princeton and Stanford. These days, courtesy of the generous endowments the elite
private schools have amassed, lots more of
them can afford it.
Consider this line in a 2007 message
from President Richard Brodhead to the
Duke student body: “Duke is eliminating
parent contributions for families who earn
less than $60,000 a year.
“Undergraduates from families with
total incomes below $40,000 will have no
loan packaged into their financial aid. The
loan component of aid will be reduced for
families with incomes from $40,000 up to
$100,000 on a graduated basis.”
And Duke received 17
percent more applications this
year than last year, the largest
The school that pioneered the
work-study program that offers low-
income students a chance to graduate
debt-free — Carolina, with its Carolina
Covenant — is competing with Davidson
and Vanderbilt, which recently have eliminated loans; unlike the covenant, which has
guidelines based on a percentage of the
federal poverty level, there is no criteria at
these elite schools. Farmer seriously doubts
a public school the size of Carolina could
So what’s UNC doing? Stepping up
recruitment of bright students whose parents likely didn’t go to college — who may
assume Carolina is beyond their reach.
UNC is not what you call unhealthy
when it comes to available financial aid.
Need-based aid from the state has increased
849 percent across the UNC System and in
the state’s community college system in the
past 11 years. Carolina sets aside about 35
percent of every tuition increase for aid.
The covenant became a popular target for
private donors, so much so that most of
that money is now put into an endowment.
When the admissions office got a no-strings $25,000 grant from the Triad Foundation, Farmer decided to use it to improve
recruitment of first-generation college students and those from low-income families.
Admissions is setting up a one- or two-day
event to bring these students to
the campus and will pay transportation for some.
“We don’t want them to think they
can’t afford to come to see Carolina for
themselves,” Farmer said. “We don’t want
to lose a kid because we failed to help
them make the connection between themselves and Carolina.”
In another program, young Carolina
alumni are working to make connections
between low-income students and college
— any college. The Carolina College
Advising Corps has hired 18 recent graduates and given them each two North Carolina high schools to mine for prospects
who might have set aside the idea of college because of cost. The Carolina corps
and the companion National College
Advising Corps, which reaches high
schools in other states, is based in
Carolina Covenant —
the work-study program
that offers low-income
students a chance
to graduate debt-free —
UNC is competing with
Duke, Davidson and
Vanderbilt, which recently
have eliminated loans.
Unlike the covenant,
which has guidelines
based on a percentage
of the federal poverty level,
there is no criteria
at these elite schools.
Steve Farmer seriously
doubts a public school
the size of Carolina
could do this.