CHAPEL HILL – During his annual State of the University Address Wednesday, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser announced plans to increase the number of students covered under the school’s Carolina Covenant.
The Carolina Covenant, first proposed during Moeser’s 2003 State of the University address, is a measure to provide a debt-free college education to low-income students. Moeser said the school intends to increase the scope of the program to include students who are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, up from 150 percent this year.
The announcement was one of several recommendations Moeser made during his address to faculty, staff and students. Moeser also advocated increasing faculty retention, investing in centers of research excellence, increase local and global involvement, and the implementation of the Carolina North project among other policy recommendations.
According to the UNC-Chapel Hill, 225 freshmen entered the school through the Carolina Covenant plan, each agreeing to work 10 to 12 hours weekly in a federal work-study job. With the increase in scope, Moeser said 120 additional students could be covered in the program next fall.
The expansion will cover students from families with an annual income of up to $37,000 or from a single-parent household with an annual income of up to $24,000. Currently, the income caps are $28,000 and $18,000.
“Our university is leading a true movement in American higher education,” Moeser said. “We hope our leadership last year in establishing the Carolina Covenant, and our increased commitment to the Covenant today, will challenge other universities to make similar investments to ensure affordability and access for deserving students.”
Moeser said the school has received about $2.7 million in gifts to help fund the Carolina Covenant through the Carolina First fundraising campaign.
However, Moeser said the school needs to do more to increase funding for non-need-based merit scholarships.
“Having made this massive commitment to need-based aid, we must now turn our attention to increasing the funding for non-need-based merit scholarships, to make sure that we are competitive for the very best students who have offers from other institutions,” Moeser said. “We can do this without any compromise to our commitment to access and affordability.”
Besides describing plans to increase the Carolina Covenant, Moeser also advocated his seven top priorities for the university in the future. Those are to strengthen faculty support, create a rich learning environment, invest in centers of research excellence, enhance global, local engagement, compete the school’s development plan, investing in the school’s top priorities, and defining the school’s role as a leader.
“I have not hidden my ambition to help Chapel Hill be the leading public university in America,” Moeser said. “In some respects, we already are. But really being the leading public university starts with fulfilling our mission close to home. This university must continue defining its research and public service agendas around the needs of the state. That is the definition of engagement. We work on real-world problems. We address local, as well as global needs.”
In his speech, Moeser advocated what he considered a moderate increase in campus- or school-based tuition to increase funding for faculty and graduate teaching assistants. He also advocated using private money to fund faculty salaries. Carolina First, according to UNC-Chapel Hill, has raised $211 million in faculty support funds.
“Private gifts will remain a priority, recognizing that we cannot look to the state alone to support the intense competition that Chapel Hill faces from well-endowed private institutions,” Moeser said.
While Moeser said the school will accept private money for faculty positions and research initiatives, the school will not adopt the University of Virginia initiative to become a private-public institution.
“Leaders of the University of Virginia speak publicly about privatizing the university,” Moeser. “Certainly, Virginia’s story is not our story. It is so radically different that my colleague, Law School Dean Gene Nichol, has often said that if Thomas Jefferson was alive today, he would be a Tar Heel.”
Shannon Blosser (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a staff writer with the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Chapel Hill.