On Tuesday, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors announced the approval of the “Cornerstone Grant” that will provide substantial financial aid to qualifying middle-income, full-time Virginia undergraduates. The Board also authorized plans to increase in-state student enrollment in undergraduate programs by up to 100 Virginians for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Beginning in the fall, first- and second-year students whose families earn less than $125,000 annually and receive no other grants or scholarships will qualify for a $2,000 Cornerstone Grant. Similarly eligible third-year students will qualify for a $1,000 grant.
The package of initiatives represents a concerted effort by the administration to make a UVA education more accessible and affordable for in-state students. While Virginia has been recognized as one of the best values in higher education, the long-term strategy strives to enhance this reputation by driving down the costs students incur. The Board of Visitors began planning for the grant in 2014 by establishing a committee to develop recommendations for a sustainable model to enhance affordability and educational quality through a creative and integrative approach.
The Cornerstone Grant, with an initial funding of approximately $15 million over the next three years, will be provided by the University’s Strategic Investment Fund. The fund was established in February 2016 to generate funding for projects that will improve academic quality, minimize tuition and student debt, and conduct world-class research. In the fall, a SIF subcommittee identified two main objectives to enhance the accessibility and affordability of a UVa degree. The first was to begin permanently endowing the cost of student aid so that in the future, tuition will no longer be used to fund the University’s financial aid program. The second goal was to increase financial aid to middle-income families, which will be addressed by the Cornerstone Grant. After the first three years, the grant’s funding will be integrated into the University’s annual operating budget through operational cost reductions and private revenue generation.
The expansion of financial aid for Virginians will also be coupled with a program to increase in-state enrollment. The Board’s plan calls for 100 new slots for Virginians; half will be filled by incoming first years, while the other half will be available to transfers. Admission preference will also be provided to applicants to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Architecture.
The University has increased the enrollment of in-state students since 2011 in accordance with the Top Jobs Act. Under the state-approved plan, UVa has committed to enhancing enrollment by nearly 1,200 Virginian undergraduates through the fall of 2018.