A preliminary review of the University of Virginia’s comprehensive financial aid program found that, in terms of market demand, U.Va. is a good value for both in-state and out-of-state students.
Not only that, but according to a recent study by Art & Science Group LLC of Baltimore, AccessUVa is also generous among public institutions. Currently, AccessUVa meets full need of all students, both in- and out-of-state; caps debt based on cost of attendance rather than family income; and requires neither work-study nor a minimum student contribution in the calculation of expected family contribution.
The consultants surveyed prospectve students to model the impact of changes in price. The consultants found in their surveys of out-of-state students, in particular, that incremental increases in tuition would have little to no negative effect on prospective students’ decisions.
The same findings held true, they said, for lower-income prospective students in-state or out-of-state, as well as for middle-income, under-represented minorities, and the highest SAT scorers. An increase in cost would likely not deter them from attending U.Va., as long as their needs were met by financial aid.
These are among several initial key findings from the in-depth review of AccessUVa, which was commissioned in June 2011 by the Board of Visitors. The Art & Science Group presented findings from a survey of prospective students and a peer benchmarking study Friday to a joint meeting of the board’s Finance and Education Policy committees.
The study is ongoing and will analyze the potential impacts of possible changes to the AccessUVa program.
Next February, the board will discuss recommendations; any policy changes in AccessUVa would not take effect until the 2014-15 academic year and only for entering students.
On the seventh anniversary of the program, the board decided last year that it was timely to undertake a review of the AccessUVa program. The factors prompting the review included:
- Changing demographics of financial-aid recipients, in part due to the economic downturn;
- Fiscal pressures on the University given rapid escalation of costs for commitment to financial aid;
- Uncertain future of federal financial aid.
During the first six years of the program, the share of institutional funds supporting AccessUVa more than doubled from $14.1 million in its inaugural year to $31.3 million in 2008-09. This year, the program will distribute more than $40 million to financial aid participants.
Patrick D. Hogan, the University’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said that Student Financial Services has found ways to limit the 2013-14 projected cost of AccessUVa to that of the current year, but that further work needs to be done to complete the analysis of potential changes for future years.
“Our consultants have given us a tool for understanding the drivers of prospective student decision-making,” Hogan said. “But I want to make it clear that the modeling is based on today’s enrollment numbers and BOV-approved growth rates. We are not contemplating changes in the approved growth rates or our current in-state/out-of-state mix.”
Just this past summer, AccessUVa was rated the best financial aid program among public colleges and universities in Princeton Review’s 2012 guide to best colleges.
“Only one other public institution studied – with far fewer out-of-state students – meets full need out-of-state,” the consultants noted.
They also highlighted two important factors: Relative to its peers, U.Va. has a much higher percentage of aid recipients who are middle income, and over the past two years, U.Va. has experienced the highest rate of budget growth and cost per student aided.
The board will continue to discuss the best route for making changes that would help the program – but without compromising the important benefits that AccessUVa has contributed to the quality of the undergraduate experience and the diversity of the student body.