Fulfilling the promise
In 2008, Carolina made a promise to cover the tuition for low-income S.C. students whose parents had never attended college.
Today, the University has fulfilled that promise for 352 students.
The Gamecock Guarantee pledges that each eligible student’s undergraduate tuition and technology fee will be covered for up to four years if the student meets the program¹s academic, financial, and participation criteria. At a minimum, the program provides each participant an award of $2,500 per year.
Gamecock Guarantee recipients also benefit from classes, workshops, and programs that can enrich their undergraduate experiences. The students receive intensive academic advising and enroll in University 101 classes specifically for them depending on their program affiliation.
“The tuition guarantee is a great incentive,” said Stacey Bradley, associate vice president for student affairs and academic support. “If the students retain their state scholarships and aid and their federal aid and keep their GPAs up and retain their scholarships and grants, they get $2,500 on top of the state and federal aid and any other need or merit-based aid from the University. That money can be used for books, housing, and other living expenses.
“If they don’t keep their aid, the University makes up the difference between their aid and the cost of tuition.”
The program grew from 92 students in fall 2008 to 134 in fall 2010, and its first class boasted a 90 percent retention rate from the freshman to sophomore year, a little higher than the overall University rate.
The admissions office promotes the Gamecock Guarantee, and the financial aid and admissions office identifies students who qualify and encourages them to be part of it.
“All the students have to do is apply to the University,” Bradley said. “We didn’t want to create extra hurdles because these students don’t have a lot of experience with college applications. They often are the first in their sibling group to attend college.”
Without the Gamecock Guarantee, many of the students could not afford college or would incur massive debt to repay after they graduate. Trevor Gilchrist, a sophomore advertising major with a minor in psychology from Lake View, S.C., might not have returned to school this year because of rising tuition.
“It’s allowed me to stay in school, work on my degree, and graduate on time instead of having to take out loans and be here an extra semester,” said Gilchrist, who plans to apply to the news and documentary graduate program at New York University.
Many Gamecock Guarantee recipients plan to pursue professional degrees in medicine, dentistry, law, or engineering.
“These are very successful, intelligent students,” Bradley said. “We need the Gamecock Guarantee so that cost is not a barrier for them. These students can graduate without high debt, and it positions them to pursue advanced degrees. The program makes a statement about how the University serves the state and its commitment to South Carolinians.”
University Creative Services