In a September 17 editorial column in The Cavalier Daily, Josh Levy bemoaned the financial help some students receive to attend college. “Financial aid encourages people who have no business being in college to attend,” wrote Levy, pointing out two perceived problems. First, he argued, bad students drag down good students. Second, “our workforce will actually be too qualified to function properly. America needs factory workers and waiters just as it needs medical researchers and lawyers.”
John Blackburn, UVA’s dean of admissions, hit the road with the likes of Harvard and Princeton, touting the AccessUVA program.
A very strong commitment
Not surprisingly, Levy’s no fan of AccessUVA, the 4-year-old program that meets 100 percent of financial need for all admitted undergraduate students with loans and grants. It goes so far as to replace loans with grants for students coming from families that earn at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
At the February 7 Board of Visitors meeting, questions were raised about students attending UVA under the $58.8 million AccessUVA program being stigmatized. There are 848 students in the current class covered by AccessUVA, with 180 of those students receiving full scholarship support.
Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs, said that the University didn’t “spotlight” AccessUVA students like the “state to the south of us,” a reference to the University of North Carolina’s “Carolina Covenant,” the first public school program that promised to meet all student financial aid needs. Adams referenced “occasional comments in The Cav Daily,” but said that students under the program were not identified as such.
But he pointed out that some students under the AccessUVA program have formed their own University-funded student group, Hoos’ for Open Access. It publishes the blog AccessUVA.
“We wanted that to come from [the students],” Adams said, “and it happened.”
In recent years, UVA has stepped up its recruitment of minority and lower-income students. Its class of 2011, officials are quick to point out, is the most diverse in the University’s history. Roughly 11 percent of the class is African American, which ties UVA with Columbia University as the leader in percentage of first-year black students, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.
UVA President John Casteen, in his State of the University speech, said that after beginning the program in Febrary 2004, “we are pretty close at this point in seeing AccessUVA at full implementation.”
A link for detailed information on AccessUVA is now on the online application. Over 5,000 prospective students clicked it this year, with 1,320 completing the questionnaires to determine eligibility for enrollment.
In September 2006, UVA announced that it was dropping its early decision program, which officials saw as an obstacle for minority and low-income students in attending UVA. Last semester, John Blackburn, UVA’s dean of admissions, toured the county with officials from Harvard and Princeton in an effort to recruit more lower-income students. A large part of that effort was talking up AccessUVA.
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