UVa Aid Policy Gets a Facelift

January 18, 2005

A year ago, the University of Virginia joined the growing list of selective institutions altering their financial aid policies to make them friendlier to students from low-income families. Now it has decided that it needs to do even more, and do it sooner, than originally planned.

The changes, which will cost UVa an additional $1.5 million a year, will benefit students from families with slightly higher incomes and those at Virginia's community colleges.

The provisions of the Access UVa program, unveiled in February 2004 at a projected annual cost of $16.4 million, included swapping in grants in place of loans in the financial aid packages of undergraduates whose family incomes are at or under 150 percent of the federal poverty line. The university also agreed that, beginning this fall, it would cap the amount of need-based loans for any UVa student at 25 percent of the in-state cost of attending the university, and to replace all loan money above that amount with grants.

The changes the university introduced on Monday would extend the provision on replacing loans with grants to students whose families have incomes at up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, up from 150 percent. (For a family of four, that equates to an income of $37,700, up from $28,274.)

And while the original policy declared that transfer students would have to wait until 2006 to take advantage of the program's benefits, under the change announced Monday, students transferring from institutions in the Virginia Community College System now will be eligible for the program this fall.

"One point of these changes today is to provide incentives for VCCS students," said John Casteen III, UVa's president. "It is meant to offer them the means to protect themselves from excessive debt and free them to do their best, graduate on time and move out into the world to become productive and well-educated citizens."

Added Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the community college system: "AccessUVa is an incredible resource aimed directly at our students. It will provide an on-ramp to higher education for many low- to moderate-income Virginians."

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