Governor Proposes Debt-Free Financial Aid for All Low-Income College Students in North Carolina

The Carolina Covenant provides loan-free financial aid to low-income students who enroll at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now North Carolina Governor Mike Easley wants to extend the program so that low-income students can graduate from any state-operated university debt-free.

Tuition at state-operated colleges and universities in North Carolina now averages $13,400. The average debt load incurred by students who complete a four-year college degree at these institutions is $14,370.

The new proposal that would eliminate student loans for low-income students is called the Educational Access Rewards North Carolina Scholars Program. It would be offered to the approximately 25,000 low-income students attending public community colleges or four-year institutions that are part of the University of North Carolina system. Families with incomes below $41,300 would be eligible.

The estimated $100 million price tag for the new financial aid program will undoubtedly produce some opposition in the state legislature. In reacting to the governor’s plan, the GOP leader of the state Senate said, “When I went to college I borrowed money, and had to pay it back. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.”