February 26, 2010 — After five years, the numbers show that the AccessUVa financial aid initiative has made good on its promise to increase socioeconomic diversity in the University of Virginia's student body.
The Board of Visitors' Educational Policy Committee received a status report on AccessUVa during the board's quarterly meeting. Also, the Special Committee on Diversity received a report on the progress of the University's diversity efforts in the five years since the establishment of the Office for Diversity and Equity.
During its two-day meeting last week, the board approved an expansion of Newcomb Hall and construction of another new first-year residence hall along Alderman Road. It was also briefed on the University's energy conservation efforts, and received a cautiously optimistic update on the $3 billion capital campaign.
The board first approved the AccessUVa initiative in 2004 to improve the socioeconomic diversity of the student body. The plan guarantees to meet 100 percent of students' demonstrated need, with loan-free aid packages for the lowest-income students and loan caps for all others. In addition, the University planned financial literacy and debt management education programs for students and their families.
The Office of Admission has aggressively reached out to low-income prospects, traveling to hold group sessions and often making more personal contact, using both admissions staff and student groups, said Valerie Gregory, associate dean of admission and the office's director of outreach.
The efforts are paying off, she said. In 2004, the first year of the program, there were 702 applicants from low-income families, described as those whose income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. In 2009, that number had more than doubled, to 1,599.
Five years ago, 49.8 percent of low-income students accepted offers of admission. Last year, that number had jumped to 61.8 percent.
Once on Grounds, the University has increased its support for students receiving aid. Since July, Laurie Casteen, an associate dean of students, has served as an advocate for low-income students, seeking a "fully level playing field," including access to study abroad opportunities, January Term classes and research grants. She is putting together financial literacy programs, including sessions on balancing academics and employment and negotiating benefits for fourth-year students. She publishes a newsletter and resource guides. She also works closely with student groups, including Hoos for Open Access.
The results show that low-income students are thriving academically, said Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs.
They are studying abroad, receiving Harrison Undergraduate Research Awards and enrolling in the Jefferson Public Citizens program at rates comparable to the rest of the student body, he said, and their graduation rate is comparable to U.Va.'s overall rate.
Dr. Marcus Martin, interim vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, outlined the many gains made in faculty and administrative hiring, the diversity of the student body, purchasing from minority vendors, and the establishment of several student cultural groups. Among the highlights have been the appointments of minority and women deans and more minorities and women in the ranks tenure-track faculty.
Martin said that improvement is needed in the diversity among graduate students, the "pipeline for future faculty."
Board Approves Newcomb Hall Expansion, New Dorm
Newcomb Hall – derided as the "ping pong palace" when it was first proposed in 1955 – is about to get its fifth expansion.
The board approved a major expansion and renovation designed to boost the seating in Newcomb's dining facilities by about 500 seats, or 45 percent. The expansion, slated to begin in June 2011, is expected to cost between $16 million and $18 million, financed by U.Va. Dining reserves and bonds.
The project had not previously appeared on the University's list of capital projects, but a planned renovation of student spaces in the building and the currently favorable construction market offered an opportunity, said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Plans are to expand the first and second levels of the six-story building out onto Newcomb Plaza, toward the U.Va. Bookstore. The project would also create a more welcoming gateway for visitors emerging from the Central Grounds Parking Garage below the bookstore, said David Neuman, the University architect.
When then-president Colgate Darden proposed a student activity center in the mid-1950s, fraternities led the opposition. Fearing that it would provide a competing recreational outlet for the all-male undergraduate student body, they derided it as "Darden's folly" and "the ping pong palace."
Darden persisted, and Newcomb Hall opened in 1958. By the time the first expansion was planned in the mid-1960s, students were complaining that it was overdue, according to Virginius Dabney's "Mr. Jefferson's University: A History."
The board also approved a plan to raze three more of the Alderman Road residence houses – Tuttle, Dunnington and Lile houses – and build another five-story dorm to replace them.
Currently designated as Phase IV Building 5, the latest building will cost approximately $30 million and include classroom space and a post office, Neuman said. It will be slated for occupancy in May 2014.
Two new residence halls and a student commons building are under construction and scheduled to come online by May 2011. Another two residence halls will be ready a year later.
Once the latest building is complete, the whole area will net an increase of 1,041 beds, according to documents presented to the board.
With the dining expansion and the additional classroom space either recently built, under construction or planned, Sandridge said the University is poised for future enrollment growth "in the 3,000- to 5,000-student range."
University Greening, But Needs to be Greener
All the new construction is not helping the University achieve its goal of reducing its carbon footprint to 2000 levels.
Back then, the University emitted about 260,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, said Cheryl Gomez, U.Va.'s director of energy and utilities.
By 2008, that number was up to 325,000 metric tons. With new construction slated to come online in the next three years adding about 1.2 million square feet to the University's inventory, energy usages is projected to increase by another 10 percent, she said.
The current focus is on conservation, Gomez said. She credited efforts undertaken in the 2008-09 fiscal year – including more efficient use of lighting, improved energy management systems and controls, and other measures – with saving $1.1 million in energy costs and 1,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Moving to a centralized approach to cooling buildings was "the single biggest thing" the University has done to save energy, she said.
Facilities personnel are now focusing on retrofitting existing buildings, using broad-based teams to identify and execute energy-saving measures. The "Delta Force" team recently spent $434,000 on energy overhauls at the Health System's MR-4 building and realized a $408,000 energy savings in the first year alone, plus a 1,281-metric ton decrease in carbon emissions.
Similar efforts are under way in three other buildings: Jordan Hall, the Chemistry Building and its annex, and the Health System's Multistory Building, Gomez said.
Individuals also have a role in future conservation, she said. Energy-use kiosks in some new and existing buildings allow people to see how their actions impact energy use.
Facilities Management is continually evaluating the feasibility of using alternative energy sources, including renewable fuel stocks, solar, geothermal and wind power, she said.
Capital Campaign Regaining Momentum
In his opening remarks to the board, University President John T. Casteen III reported that giving to the University stood at $133.4 million through the first seven months of the current fiscal year. That number is down $32 million from the 2008-09 fiscal year, but that year's numbers were boosted in December 2008 by a one-time $40 million payment on the pledge for the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
Likening the University's $3 billion capital campaign to a football game, Robert D. Sweeney, senior vice president for development and public affairs, said U.Va. went into halftime with a significant lead, but absorbed "the worst body blow in 70 years" when the recession hit in mid-2008.
It now enters the fourth quarter trailing by a touchdown, he said.
The period from mid-2008 through 2009 was difficult, Sweeney said, and the pipeline of "big gifts" of $10 million or more essentially dried up. As a result, the campaign stands at about $2.1 billion, approximately $180 million behind schedule, he said.
He calculates that the development team will need to make about 8,000 gift solicitations before the campaign ends in December 2011 to reach the $3 billion target.
Giving is showing signs of rebounding, he said, and several big-gift negotiations are currently in motion.
"It may not be the best time to solicit, but this is our time to solicit," he declared.
• The board appointed Stewart Hill Ackerly, a second-year law student, to a one-year term as the board's non-voting student representative. Ackerly, who succeeds Rahul K. Gorawara, is the nephew of John P. "Jack" Ackerly III, who served as the University's rector from 1998 to 2003.
• The University's endowment appears healthy. The University of Virginia Investment Management Company reported that its long-term pool stood at $4.4 billion at the end of 2009. The 20-year rate of return was 11.8 percent – compared to a benchmark of 6.9 percent – but the 10-year outlook forecasts a more modest 8 percent return.
• The board approved transferring an additional $1.8 million to the U.Va. Foundation to cover the final expenses of preparing the former Blue Ridge Hospital site for future development. The state of Virginia gave the 142-acre property to the foundation in 2000; since then, $4.8 million has been spent preserving a handful of buildings with historical significance and demolishing the rest.
The cost to the University comes out to about $33,000 per acre. "We're pretty happy with it," said Sandridge, who offered no timetable for future development.
• The External Affairs Committee gave an ovation to Chuck Taylor, the long-time general manager of the University's radio station, WTJU, who officially retired in January. "Chuck Taylor has not only been the general manager of WTJU – he did everything," Sweeney said. "Without Chuck Taylor, WTJU would not exist."
• U.Va.'s athletic program ranked second among the nation's Division I-A schools after the fall season in the Directors Cup standings, reported Craig Littlepage, director of intercollegiate athletics programs. The standings reflect overall performance in NCAA championship play. With several highly ranked spring sports teams, the University may improve on last year's eighth-place finish, he predicted.
The board also applauded men's soccer head coach George Gelnovatch, whose team in December captured the first NCAA championship of his 14-year tenure.
• The board set tuition and fees for several special programs which start earlier in the academic year, including:
the Darden School of Business executive MBA program ($115,000, up 6 percent);
the McIntire School of Commerce master's program in the management of information technology (standardized at $38,500, a 6 percent increase for in-state students, and an 8.3 percent decrease for out-of-state);
the School of Engineering and Applied Science master's program in systems engineering (standardized at $35,000, a 2.9 percent increase for in-state students, and a 10.3 percent decrease for out-of-state);
and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies post-baccalaureate, pre-medical certificate program ($23,700 for in-state students, up 0.9 percent, and $28,700 for out-of-state, up 0.7 percent).
Those programs are entirely self-supporting and receive no state funds.
The board is expected to set the remaining tuition and fee schedule once the state budget is finalized.