September 8, 2009 — The University of Virginia today launched a major fundraising campaign for AccessUVa, the University's financial aid program designed to keep higher education affordable for all admitted students regardless of economic circumstance.
President John T. Casteen III, who is spearheading the effort, wrote in a letter to U.Va. alumni and parents of current students of the University's strong commitment to the program and its broad impact.
Calling AccessUVa "one of our University's most important programs for students," Casteen wrote, "Since its beginning in 2004, this program has made it possible for thousands of students from both low- and middle-income families to come here, regardless of their financial means."
The AccessUVa campaign will become a focus of the $3 billion Campaign for the University, which ends on Dec. 31, 2011. One of the goals is to garner broad participation by alumni and parents.
The $3 billion campaign, launched in 2004, has raised nearly $2 billion. The first half focused on securing funds for a range of new facilities, while the next phase of the campaign is dedicated to raising resources for people and programs, including AccessUVa.
The University's level of commitment to AccessUVa has risen each year. Total need-based aid to undergraduates increased from $37 million in 2003-04 to $59.1 million during the 2008-09 academic year. Over 32 percent of the student body qualifies for financial aid, up from 27 percent in the past academic year.
As student need grows, funding must keep pace. Forecasts indicate that total need-based aid may top $73 million in 2009-10. The University is shouldering a larger portion of AccessUVa support than in previous years. While some of the funding comes from federal, state and other outside sources, the share paid by U.Va. funds and endowments has more than doubled in the last six years, from $14.1 million to $29.7 million.
Moreover, economic recession, coupled with tightened credit and what Casteen called the failure of federal and state financial aid programs, is intensifying the challenges that some students and their families face in planning and paying for college education. The demand for financial aid will continue to rise as unemployment increases and more parents face salary cuts and freezes and other forms of diminished income, the president wrote.
The enrollment figures for students who demonstrate some level of financial need illustrate this trend. In the 2009-10 entering class, 1,250 students are taking advantage of AccessUVa aid, up from 877 in the previous year.
"AccessUVa would be essential in any economy, but this year it has proved its worth many times," Casteen wrote.
AccessUVa has two components to support students from lower- and middle-income families. Students whose family incomes are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line receive loan-free, all-grant aid packages. For qualifying middle-income students, the University includes loans, with a maximum loan cap for four years of approximately 25 percent of the in-state cost of attendance. As a result of this support, AccessUVa students graduate with manageable amounts of debt.
For many AccessUVa students, their experience at the University is transformative.
For example, fourth-year student Josh Mitchell took a chance in applying to U.Va. He knew that he would be able to succeed academically, but the full cost of tuition was beyond his family's means.
AccessUVa made it possible for Mitchell to attend the school with which he'd fallen in love. He signed on for Navy ROTC in his third year. After graduation, he looks forward to four years of traveling the globe and gaining practical experience while on active duty in the Navy.
"AccessUVa really does change people's lives," Mitchell said. "I would be in a completely different place right now if it wasn't for AccessUVa. I feel like one of the most privileged students in the nation."