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University of Virginia Overhauls AccessUVA for Low & Middle Income Students, Creates More Debt

Last week, the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors – a Governor-appointed board responsible for long-term planning for the University – voted to decrease funding for Access UVA, and will force low-income program participants to take out nearly $30,000 in student loans to attend UVA.

The Access UVA program previously made the cost of the University low, or even zero, for admitted, low- and middle-income students, limiting the amount of debt that students are frequently faced with when they graduate from college.

“The program not only keeps a U.Va. education affordable for the lowest income students, but also addresses the concerns of middle-income families who are squeezed by the rising cost of tuition,” reads the description on their website detailing how the program works

The program leveled the playing field for all students by creating the space for low-income students to compete with those who were financially better off, and giving them the freedom to excel – unburdened by the stress and worries of cost.  

It would have even made Thomas Jefferson proud, notes UVA alumni Paul Wiley and John Spilman in The Washington Post. Their article outlines the monumental mistake the University -- which has an endowment of five billion dollars -- is making in turning its back on this groundbreaking program.

“It was a program that helped select, as he [Thomas Jefferson] described them, ‘the youths of genius from among the classes of the poor.’ It made possible an education at his university for those with the ‘talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich.’ It drew in students who enriched his vision of a university ‘based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind,’ and not on the limits of financial wherewithal,’ they write. 

“This change by the Board of Visitors is a betrayal of that core ethos.”

The Washington Post article entitled Brains But Not Bucks is a good take down of the Board of Visitors’ decision, and is well-worth the read.

The authors ask that all Virginians echo the call being made by the students at the university: to find a solution wherein the university continues to provide world-class academics to all of Virginia’s best and brightest.

(The next meeting of the Board of Visitors at UVA is mid-September. Feel free to post your thoughts or ideas about how to make sure they hear our concerns in the comments section below).