The University of Virginia today announced the creation of a permanent endowment to support student scholarships that could reach $300 million through a combination of philanthropic support and the UVA Strategic Investment Fund.
Earnings from the new Bicentennial Scholars Fund will provide need- and merit-based scholarships for University undergraduate students, and also will relieve pressure on long-term tuition increases by funding need-based aid from this fund instead of from tuition revenue.
“The Bicentennial Scholars Fund is the latest step by the University since the establishment of AccessUVA in 2004 to provide students and their families access to one of the finest undergraduate educations in the country,” Rector William H. Goodwin Jr. said. “With this step, the University is beginning the process to permanently fund through philanthropy, rather than tuition dollars, its financial aid program.”
The endowment will benefit students attending UVA in Charlottesville and those at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
“As we approach the beginning of the University’s bicentennial next year, the commitments we make now will shape UVA’s character for its third century,” UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “The creation of the Bicentennial Scholars Fund is a signal of our intention, now and in our next century, to make an excellent UVA education accessible and affordable for talented students from all backgrounds, regardless of their families’ financial situations. I’m grateful to the Board of Visitors for their strong commitment to this bold action.”
The board on Friday approved a resolution establishing the endowment, which could ultimately include philanthropic gifts of as much as $200 million, and matching amounts of up to $100 million from earnings from the board’s Strategic Investment Fund over a five-year period. The board authorized a matching investment from the Strategic Investment Fund of $1 for every $2 gift on donations of $100,000 or more. Cash gifts of $1 million or more qualify for a dollar-for-dollar match.
The Strategic Investment Fund was authorized in February to provide transformational investments in the quality of a UVA education without relying on tuition or tax dollars. Areas of emphasis include research, academic experience, access and affordability, and economic development.
“Investing in scholarships opens the doors of the University of Virginia even wider for all admitted students, regardless of their ability to pay,” said board member John A. Griffin, who chairs the Advancement Committee. “The Bicentennial Scholars Fund matching component provides an important incentive to continue our focus on this critical fundraising area, which is key to the long-term success and sustainability of the University and its mission to serve the commonwealth, nation and world.”
Through its AccessUVA financial aid program, UVA is one of only two U.S. public universities that meets both 100 percent of financial need for all undergraduates and offers admission to students without any consideration of their family finances.
“Establishing an endowment in support of scholarships is critically important to the future of the University of Virginia,” Mark M. Luellen, vice president for Advancement, said. “The University never fails to bring transformational opportunities forward, and few are as promising for ensuring financial support for our best and brightest students as the Bicentennial Scholars Fund.”
As UVA approaches the start of its third century in existence, both the Board of Visitors and administration have been working toward building a framework that would offer sustainable, long-term financing for operations and strategic priorities, while also pursuing ways to ensure the University remains affordable to Virginians.
In 2015, the board took important steps toward those goals by passing “Affordable Excellence,” a model that for 70 percent of qualifying Virginia families reduces the net cost of attending UVA. The program also moderates projected future tuition increases and offers an optional plan permitting families to lock in tuition rates with no increases for four years.
Affordable Excellence also increased grant aid and correspondingly dramatically reduced exposure to need-based loans for low- and middle-income Virginians. The program lowered the maximum annual need-based loan amount from $3,500 to $1,000 for students from low-income families and from $7,000 to $4,500 for all other in-state students with demonstrated financial need.
In concert with Affordable Excellence, the board voted to increase annual spending associated with the University’s primary endowment, restructure the debt portfolio and establish formal approaches to achieving operational efficiencies, savings and productivity increases.
Those steps provided a foundation from which both the Strategic Investment Fund and the Bicentennial Scholars Fund have been established.
“With the partnership and leadership of the Board of Visitors, we have made tremendous progress toward our goal of placing the University of Virginia on a reliable financial path into its third century,” Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Pat Hogan said. “That path is only reliable if Virginia students and families can depend on it to lead them to an excellent education that does not overburden them financially.”