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The Carolina Covenant ®. Promise & Platform for Student Success. Presented to: Projects Promoting Equity in Urban and Higher Education The Center for Educational Outreach The National Center for Institutional Diversity The University of Michigan March 19, 2010 Shirley A. Ort

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The Carolina Covenant ®

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the carolina covenant
The Carolina Covenant®

Promise & Platform for Student Success

Presented to:

Projects Promoting Equity in Urban and Higher Education

The Center for Educational Outreach

The National Center for Institutional Diversity

The University of Michigan

March 19, 2010

Shirley A. Ort

Associate Provost and Director of Scholarships & Student Aid

the covenant in context
The Covenant in Context

Population Shifts in North Carolina

  • North Carolina has one of the nation’s fastest-growing populations
  • From about 9.3 million today, population projected to reach 12.2 million by 2030, making N.C. the 7th most populous state
  • Much of the growth will occur among less affluent populations.
  • North Carolina currently ranks 11th (ties with Georgia) among all states in the percentage of its population living below the federal poverty level (14.3%).

Source: Mabe, Alan. (September 2005).  The Demographic, Economic, and educational Context for the University of North Carolina: 2006-2011 Long Range Plan.  The University of North Carolina General Administration.  Retrieved March 12, 2010.

the covenant in context1
The Covenant in Context

Demographic Shifts in North Carolina

North Carolina population growth by race, ethnicity, and nativity1990-2005

Source: Johnson, James. (September 2005).  North Carolina’s Higher Education Demographic Challengers.  Kenan-Flagler Business School, UNC-Chapel Hill.  Retrieved March 12, 2010.

the carolina covenant1
The Carolina Covenant . . .

. . . Our promise to current & future students

  • Carolina is – and will remain – accessible and affordable for academically prepared students from low-income backgrounds
  • Created in 2003, implemented in Fall 2004, it will endure – a promise to future generations.
  • Nearly 2,300 Covenant Scholars have benefited since the start of the program in Fall 2004 (1,800 currently enrolled)
how the covenant works
How the Covenant Works
  • “Need blind” admission to the University
  • Covenant Scholars named based upon program eligibility and low-income status (200% federal poverty level or below)
  • Median family income of Covenant Scholars: $26,026
  • Scholars’ financial “packages” composed of grants, scholarships, and a Work Study job (i.e., “no loans”) for up to 9 semesters
  • Research demonstrates that large grants, when combined with a part-time job and limited borrowing, positively influence the academic success of low-income students (Jacqueline King, Crucial Choices, 2003)

Characteristics of Covenant Scholars*

[*] The income threshold for consideration for the Carolina Covenant was initially established at 150% of federal poverty guidelines. Starting in fall 2005, it was increased to encompass students with parents’ adjusted gross income up to 200% of the federal poverty standard.

changes in covenant population
Changes in Covenant Population

Broadened Eligibility

  • Initial 2004 cohort (N=224): All were first-year students with family incomes under 150% of poverty level
  • Additions to 2005 – 2009 Cohorts:
    • Family income 151- 200% of poverty level
      • Additional 100 scholars per year; jumped to 139 in 2009
    • Transfer students
      • Started with 26 in 2005; grown to 92 in 2009
      • Close to 20% of total cohort
support for covenant scholars
Support for Covenant Scholars

“More than money”

  • Financial Aid
  • University Embrace
  • Programming and Mentoring
financial aid to scholars 2009 10
Financial Aid to Scholars, 2009-10

Financial Aid by Type

Financial Aid by Source

*Loans taken at Scholar’s own initiative

Total Aid | $35,411,798

programming and mentoring
Programming and Mentoring
  • Orientation (for Scholars and parents)
  • Faculty/staff and peer mentors
  • Special programming and opportunities
    • Learning skills workshops (time management, note taking, studying for math, writing skills, preparing for exams, etc.)
    • Business etiquette, dining skills, public speaking
    • Pre-med seminars
    • Financial literacy
    • Tickets to performing arts events
    • Receptions and celebration events
    • Academic tracking, “interventions” & learning contracts
community embrace
Community Embrace
  • Comprehensive infrastructure of support services and special programming
  • Some of our many Covenant Partners
    • Faculty and Administration – Mentoring and financial support
    • Admissions and University Relations – Outreach and promotion
    • College of Arts and Sciences – Advising and Academic Services
    • Diversity and Multicultural Affairs – Outreach programs
    • Student Affairs – Orientation, Career Services, Counseling
    • Carolina Performing Arts – Vouchers for artistic events
    • Development Office – Fundraising (currently $11 million)
    • Institutional Research – Data and program evaluation
    • The Medical School – Seminars and mentoring
    • The Coach!
assessing covenant scholar progress
Assessing Covenant Scholar Progress
  • Approach to evaluating the success of Covenant Scholars is based upon prior research findings:
      • National Studies: Students from low-income families do not persist or graduate at the same rates as their classmates (Edward St. John, 2008; Cliff Adelman, 2007).
      • Carolina’s 2004 Retention Study: Socio-economic factors (family income, parent education, etc.) were significant predictors of retention and graduation, even after controlling for entering academic preparation.
  • Goal: To determine if the Covenant award helps close the gap in degree attainment between low- income students and other students.
indicators of student success
Indicators of Student Success
  • Academic Achievement
  • Retention Rates
  • Graduation Rates
evaluation design
Compared the success of first cohort of Covenant Scholars in 2004 to that of a matched group of students from the 2003 entering class who would have been eligible for the Covenant, had it existed.

Also compared performance of Covenant Scholars to their classmates with less need and those with no need.

Evaluation Design

2004 Cohort Group Comparisons*

[*] The income threshold for consideration for the Carolina Covenant was initially established at 150% of federal poverty guidelines. Starting in fall 2005, it was increased to encompass students with parents’ adjusted gross income up to 200% of the federal poverty standard.

academic achievement
Academic Achievement
  • Grade Point Average:
    • Average GPA for 2004 Covenant Scholars at graduation was within 2/10ths of a point of the average for all students.
  • Academic Eligibility:
    • Number of 2004 Covenant Scholars who became academically ineligible was considerably lower (17%) than the 2003 Control Group .
retention rate comparisons
Retention Rate Comparisons
  • By year four, the entering class of 2004 Covenant Scholars had persisted at a considerably higher rate than the Covenant students in the 2003 Control Group.
  • The 2004 Covenant Scholars closed much of the persistence gap observed between the low income group and others in the 2003 Control Group.

Year 4 percentage adjusted for 3-year graduates.

graduation rates
Graduation Rates

Increases in Carolina’s overall graduation rates within 8 and 9 semesters have been greatest among financially needy students.

While their graduation rates are still somewhat below those of non-needy students, the gap has been reduced considerably.

Carolina Covenant Scholars improved more than did any other group.

General Trends

graduation rates1
Graduation Rates

Among Comparison Groups


Graduation Rates

Improvement in Percentage Graduated:2004 Cohort vs. 2003 Control Group

graduation rates2
Graduation Rates

as of Late 2009

* Control group

2005 covenant cohort
2005 Covenant Cohort

Greatest gains were seen among men.

Note in particular the significant gains among both Black and Caucasian men.

Women remained relatively stable, generally performing somewhat higher than men.

Graduation Rates












Conclusion & Discussion

Pinpointing the Covenant’s Impact

  • Preliminary indications point toward significant improvement in the academic success of Carolina Covenant Scholars.
  • Financial support clearly matters, but the impact goes beyond money.
  • Which support programs have the greatest effect?
  • What accounts for the sizable increase in graduation rates among men?
summer school contract initiative
Summer School Contract Initiative
  • Developed in response to observations that academically ineligible Covenant students receiving grants to attend summer school to regain good standing had a lower “cure” rate than predicted.
  • Summers of 2008 and 2009: Changed policy; ineligible Covenant Scholars attending summer school were given loans that could be converted to grants if they signed a learning contract and fulfilled its conditions.
  • Analysis conducted by RTI compared success rates to 2006 and 2007 summer school attendees

Restored Academic Eligibility Rates

  • Among students coded as academic ineligibility-pending who attended summer school, by signed contract status and Carolina Covenant status: UNC summer school 2006 through 2009

† Pre-contract* Signed contract