Donors Propel Blue Ridge Scholarships and Financial-Aid Endowment

In just nine months, a new scholarship program for promising University of Virginia students with financial need has attracted support exceeding its challenge grant requirement, setting the foundation for sustained philanthropic backing for future scholarship cohorts.

The Blue Ridge Scholarships and accompanying endowment were established as challenge grants in February to assist high-achieving students in the Class of 2018, and to grow long-term support for the program.

U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan announced at Friday’s Board of Visitors meeting that gifts already have surpassed not only the $1 million challenge for the Class of 2018 scholarships, but the additional $3 million challenge for the long-term endowment.

“This will give us a great deal of momentum as we continue our efforts to raise significant funding to support student scholarships, which is one of our top fundraising priorities,” Sullivan said.

Board of Visitors member and alumnus John Griffin established the program with a $4 million pledge, conditional upon raising matching funds to bring the total amount raised to $8 million.

The first $2 million of the total already is making a difference for 110 first-year students who received Blue Ridge Scholarships. For these talented students, the scholarships provide assistance for their entire four-year undergraduate career.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to begin to get to know the talented, diverse students who have earned these scholarships,” said Griffin, a 1985 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce and president of New York-based Blue Ridge Capital, an investment partnership he founded in 1996. “I am inspired by their dedication to educational success and by the extraordinary caliber of the students in the inaugural class of Blue Ridge Scholars.”

With these matching gifts secured, Griffin and University officials are beginning discussions on how best to fund the Class of 2019 Blue Ridge Scholarships while exploring strategies to fully fund the program for the future. A substantial endowment would generate Blue Ridge Scholarship support indefinitely.

“I’m grateful that others saw the potential in me and that the Blue Ridge Scholarship is providing me an opportunity to realize that potential at U.Va.,” said Casey Balamut, a first-year student from Naples, Florida who plans to study kinesiology. “I may not have been able to attend the University of Virginia without this scholarship, and now that I’m here, it seems that every door is open and the choices for my future are limitless.”

U.Va. is one of only two public universities that meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all undergraduate students while also operating admission on a “need blind” basis. The University learns of an applicant’s financial need only after making an offer of admission.

Through its financial aid program, the University currently provides more assistance to more students than at any time in its history. The institutional commitment to need-based aid has increased from $11 million a decade ago to more than $48 million in the current academic year. During this time, the number of students receiving aid has increased from 24 percent of the undergraduate student population to 33 percent.

“Our overarching goal is to bring the best students to Grounds, regardless of their financial resources, and to ensure that the University always will provide an education that is both excellent and affordable,” Sullivan said.

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