On a conference call with White House leaders Wednesday, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan committed to exceeding a request from federal education officials to place more college students in local school districts to help close learning gaps left over from the pandemic.
On the Zoom call, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten issued a plea to colleges and universities across the country to devote 15% of work-study funding to a plan for college students to serve as mentors and tutors in local school districts. Ryan committed to a higher figure, 20%.
“I love this idea because it is exactly the kind of work that will be needed to help pre-K-12 students catch up following the pandemic,” Ryan said. “It’s also a great way to introduce public service to college students and it will help build stronger ties between universities and the communities in which they are situated.”
The recent pandemic led to lengthy classroom closures across Virginia as students were forced to switch to online learning. Education experts say the disruptions contributed to students falling behind. President Joe Biden has asked colleges and universities to provide more help to their school districts by increasing the number of college students dedicated to assisting schoolchildren. UVA is one of 26 “early adopter” colleges and universities who have already committed to answering the call.
“We’ll be engaging with local school leadership to find out what their needs are and how we can best work together,” Ryan said on the call. “UVA has a long history of working alongside districts through programs like the Virginia College Advising Corps, a national program that was founded right here at UVA.
“I am excited to build on that success and learn about how we can help,” Ryan said.
The president also said UVA plans to expand a tutoring program, “America Reads.” This past year, more than 80 UVA students from across the University served as tutors in more than two dozen community schools and programs.
Ryan was one of three college leaders asked to speak on the call, including Chancellor John King Jr. of the State University of New York and Dean Carole Basile of Arizona State University. Ryan encouraged other educators to contact UVA to hear more about the University’s commitment.
“I would be happy to speak to any university leader to share more about what UVA is doing in this space,” Ryan said. “We’re committed to partnering with the community and with the [National Partnership for Student Success] on this public-service initiative. Thanks again to NPSS and the White House for their leadership and I’m grateful UVA is part of this important work.”