Tuition program for Granite State students brings triplets to UNH

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

UNH students and Granite Guarantee recipients Erica, Julia and Raymond Zabcar
The Zabkars are among UNH's first Granite Guarantee recipients.

Erica, Julia and Raymond Zabkar are triplets. They live in Milton, New Hampshire, and have two older siblings. Read that: five kids to put through college.

The trio applied to UNH, but with little hope their family could afford it, they looked to other schools. One university offered a 50-percent discount if they attended together. Raymond Zabkar considered finishing his associates degree at Great Bay Community College, where he and his sisters had earned college credits during their high school years. Erica Zabkar went so far as to send a deposit to another school. Julia Zabkar thought about studying biology at another school instead of equine studies, her dream major.

They were all ready to accept their circumstances. And then their mother read about the Granite Guarantee, the new financial aid program that helps eligible New Hampshire residents attend UNH tuition-free, and everything changed.

“I'm not going to lie, I was sweating it,” says Erica Zabkar, who applied for 25 scholarships during the college search process. “Then, a miracle happened! The Granite Guarantee was announced. UNH had just made it possible for me to attend college affordably. It took me all of about two minutes to decide.”

To qualify for the Granite Guarantee, New Hampshire residents must attend UNH full-time and be eligible for federal Pell grants. The tuition assistance extends through all four years, provided criteria are still met.

“When I received my acceptance letter from the Paul School, it was bittersweet, because I knew it would be a great education and provide more opportunities than attending community college, but I didn't think we would be able to afford it,” says Raymond Zabkar, who plans to major in accounting. “My parents had the task of helping all three of us cover the tuition gap, which is a pretty tall order. When we found out about the Granite Guarantee, you could have knocked me over with a feather. In fact, you could have knocked us all over. It was then that I decided to attend UNH for sure.”

“This is a huge deal for our family to have this opportunity.”

While the Granite Guarantee does not cover housing, the tuition assistance freed up funds that made it possible for the trio to live on campus, says their mother, Deb Zabkar, who homeschooled the triplets.

“In addition to making up their minds about where they would go, it totally changed what UNH looked like for them,” she says. “All three are living on campus. The Granite Guarantee made it easier for us to cover housing. This is a huge deal for our family to have this opportunity.”

Julia Zabkar, an equine studies major, puts it this way: “Not only has the Granite Guarantee enabled me to attend my first-choice college with my first-choice major, it has enabled me to live here as well. I can honestly say that living here takes off a lot of stress, compared to my original enrollment selection as a commuter. In particular, I can breathe a little easier knowing that I do not have to worry about travelling 10-plus hours a week between Durham and my hometown. That’s a lot of valuable homework time.”

Breathing a little easier is what most of the 400-plus Granite Guarantee recipients in the class of 2021 are likely doing, and for that, they can thank the donors who made the program possible through gifts to UNH.

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UNH students walking on campus

Raising money for scholarships has been a top priority during Celebrate 150: The Campaign for UNH, and the Granite Guarantee is a direct result of this fundraising success, says Joel Carstens, director of financial Aid. “The Zabkars and hundreds of other students now know how affordable UNH truly is for the best and brightest in New Hampshire,” Carstens says. “I hope the generous donors who stepped up with a gift understand the tremendous impact they have had on current and future Wildcats.”

“Saying thank you just isn't enough. It's more like THANK YOU,” says Raymond Zabkar. “Thank you for giving me opportunities that may not have been possible. Thank you for believing that a student is more than just a dollar sign and understanding that there are significant financial barriers for many students that prevent them from pursuing a degree — and realizing their potential. Now that I am here, living on campus, I can't believe I almost missed this experience.”

“Thank you for the opportunity, and thank you for believing in me and helping me toward achieving my life goals,” Erica Zabkar says. “I plan to take advantage of all that UNH has to offer, which is significantly more than I was looking at with some of my other options. I don't know what lies in the future, but I do know that being at UNH is right where I belong to discover it.”

Julia Zabkar says, “You have no idea how large of an impact this has made on my ultimate career path and life decision. I absolutely can’t thank you enough ... It seems to me that you really do take into consideration who a person is and what their goals are. You see students as the great thinkers and employees of tomorrow, not just good business. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be pursuing such an amazing education at such a wonderful school.” 

Jeremy Gasowski | UNH Marketing | | 603-862-4465