UNC is launching a $20 million scholarship initiative to provide financial aid for middle-income undergraduate students from North Carolina.
University Chancellor Carol Folt is expected to announce the new program at a University Day event celebrating the university’s 225th birthday.
The scholarship initiative will be known as the Blue Sky Scholars program and is getting started with a $5 million gift from UNC alumnus and former president of the UNC System Erskine Bowles. The university has a goal to raise an additional $15 million to support the program.
“Today it is my pleasure to announce the Blue Sky Scholars program to help middle-class families facing the overwhelming burden of college debt. This distinctive program expands Carolina’s commitment to excellent, affordable higher education for the hardworking people in our state,” Folt said in a release. “Thanks to a generous lead gift from Erskine Bowles, we will make the promise of a Carolina education possible for even more students and their families, regardless of their ability to pay.”
This initiative is aimed at complimenting other university efforts and fill a gap in student needs. The university has been growing the Carolina Covenant program in recent years after it was launched in 2003 to guarantee students from low-income families graduate debt free.
Middle-income students will be defined for the purpose of this scholarship as “those whose household incomes average $75,000 per year.” University officials said this group “make up the majority of North Carolinians who receive need-based aid at Carolina.”
There are two middle-income students who are “supported by other forms of institutionally funded aid,” for every low-income student eligible for the Carolina Covenant, according to the university.
Officials estimate that Blue Sky Scholars will graduate with debt of $10,000 or less. The average debt for the graduating class of 2017 was estimated at $22,000, according to the university, which officials said was 22 percent less than the national average.
“Carolina has a rich history of serving the people and state of North Carolina. The Blue Sky Scholars program is designed to serve more North Carolinians,” Bowles said in a release. “We want to recruit more of these promising, middle-income students and set them up to succeed while at Carolina and well beyond graduation. Not only are we helping prepare tomorrow’s leaders, we’ll help them hit the ground running in a modern workforce and without burdensome college debt.”
The gift from Bowles will go toward the university’s $4.25 billion goal for the current fundraising campaign.