Tuition and fees at Carolina are among the lowest nationwide. But even this great value would be beyond the reach of some families without strong need-based aid.
Over 40 percent of UNC students qualify for financial support – more than ever before. These students are achieving great things – and their presence at Carolina strengthens the University and contributes to the education of their classmates.
Strong need-based aid also provides a safety net for all students. Family finances can change quickly; students who don’t need support this year may need it next year. We want to be ready when they do.Read More
“As a result of the economic downturn, the share of our undergraduate population who qualified for need-based aid rose from 34 percent to an unprecedented 43 percent. At the same time, tuition and other college costs increased and funding for federal and state grants decreased,” said Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid.
Need-based aid recipients cover the spectrum of family income ranges, and the eligibility formula is closely tied to how much money a family earns.
Carolina is currently one of two top public universities that meet 100 percent of the demonstrated need of all undergraduates who apply for aid on time – even when tuition increases or a student’s need balloons overnight because of unforeseen circumstances.
Carolina can meet full need only because of longstanding commitments by the North Carolina legislature, the UNC Board of Governors, and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, who have all found ways to provide adequate aid for students in good times and in bad. Two other sources of funding—gifts from alumni and friends, and a reasonable share of new tuition revenue paid by students and their families—have also proven essential.
Need-based grants and scholarships mean fewer students take out loans and accumulate debt. Of Carolina’s 2011 graduates, only 35 percent borrowed to finance their education. Their average cumulative debt was $15,472, well below the national average of $25,000.
The University has four resources for need-based aid: federal and state funding, private donations and tuition. Yet the economic downturn also meant cuts in this federal and state funding. In 2011–2012, UNC absorbed cuts of $2.5 million in state need-based grants, $1.8 million in federal grants and $500,000 in work-study funding at a time when more students than ever needed aid.
With these cuts, the tuition-based funding for financial aid on UNC campuses became even more critical. This last source originates from a former UNC Board of Governors requirement that at least 25 percent (and not more than 38 percent) of all campus-initiated tuition increases be allocated to financial aid. This September, the board adopted a new policy that allows each campus to set its own limits for the percent of tuition increases used for financial aid. The policy also requires that tuition bills explain how tuition increases are being used. In 2012-2013, 38 percent of new tuition revenue at UNC-Chapel Hill is being returned to students as need-based aid. If Carolina had devoted only the minimum amount (25 percent) of tuition revenue to aid, low- and middle-income students would have lost $3.3 million in need-based grants. An estimated 2,200 undergraduate students would no longer receive those grants.
Students who qualify for need-based aid are among the very best to enroll at UNC – valedictorians, class presidents, volunteers, entrepreneurs – and touch lives across campus. (Read the stories of some of them here.) They aren’t the only ones who benefit from the funding that tuition revenue provides. They enhance the education of their classmates and add to the academic excellence of the University.
“Without such terrific students, the education of every student at Carolina would suffer,” said Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions. “And without strong need-based aid, Carolina would lose these students to other universities.”