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Walking the Walk

March/April 2020

By Karla Hignite

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From expanding access to easing debt, the University of Virginia is laying the groundwork for their students’ financial success.

“Given the growing skepticism of higher education, combined with the explosion of data that give insight into what happens on campuses and after students graduate, I believe that colleges and universities will be—and should be—assessed by criteria that better capture the true value of an institution,” says University of Virginia (UVA) President James E. Ryan.

Among the new expectations that Ryan suggests will help institutions prove their value are:

In fact, expanding student access and alleviating student debt load are among the priorities of UVA’s 2030 strategic plan. The university recently celebrated its bicentennial and is kicking off the beginning of its third century with a 10-year strategic plan to reimagine its future.

Under the broad banner of its financial aid program, AccessUVA, the university is looking to increase its philanthropic endeavors to help address student financial needs, notes Jennifer (J.J.) Wagner Davis, executive vice president and chief operating officer. Davis says that philanthropy is often untapped as a funding source. Especially as it relates to securing a reservoir of student scholarship aid, more institutions will need to step up fundraising efforts to meet their own goals—and the public’s demand—for providing affordable higher education, says Davis. “At UVA, generous grants for low-income students and a 95 percent six-year graduation rate means that our graduates are positioned to succeed.”

Stepping up. UVA’s 2019 freshman class included more than 500 first-generation students—an increase of 20 percent from the previous year. In October 2019, UVA announced a $100 million gift focused on recruitment of first-generation students. This merit-based scholarship program will cover full costs of attendance for up to 60 undergraduates each year. UVA is committed to need-based scholarships as well, providing matching funds for donor gifts with its Bicentennial Scholars Fund.

KARLA HIGNITE, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is a contributing editor for Business Officer.

Credit: University of Virginia

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