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University of Virginia (UVa) Boosts ACCESSUVA Financial Aid Program

Press release from the student led campaign that protested against the cuts to the University of Virginia's financial aid program. Originally posted on RestoreAccessUVa.com.

CHARLOTTESVILLE (February 6, 2014) — On behalf of the Restore AccessUVA Campaign, we would like to express our immense gratitude to the University of Virginia (U.Va.) board member and alumnus John Griffin for his generous $4 million dollar challenge donation toward AccessUVa. The donation kicks off an $8 million challenge grant effort to benefit incoming undergraduate students who show “exceptional promise and significant financial need.”  We would also like to commend and thank President Sullivan and other U.Va. administrators for renewing the University’s commitment to making need-based financial aid for low-income students a top institutional priority.

As evidenced by a President Sullivan’s recent visit to the White House for the Summit on College Opportunity, access and affordability for low-income students is a top concern across the nation. Nearly 9,000 student advocates petitioned U.Va. to reverse cuts to the landmark AccessUVA financial aid program; since then, 75 percent of the Class of 2014 donors has contributed towards AccessUVa. This victory could not have been possible without the tremendous support of students, faculty, alumni, and other stakeholders – including Virginia state delegates, the Fairfax County School Board, and the Charlottesville NAACP – who have voiced their support for equal access to higher education.  Especially when discussions of diversity and equity are often sparse on grounds, we greatly appreciate all those students and UVA student-led organizations who have shown the courage to share their personal stories, open dialogues, and spread awareness of the cuts. We thank you for your work.

As U.Va. continues to build its financial aid endowment in the coming months, we ask that it always prioritizes the needs of the lowest-income students: those within 200 percent of the poverty level who were directly affected by the elimination of the no-loan policy. We ask that it prioritizes reducing – if not altogether eliminating –  loan burdens for them first.

“I’m proud of my university for supporting need- based financial aid, and we look forward to working with the administration to put in place an infrastructure so that student priorities are represented in the decision making process, “ said Katy Hutto, U.Va third year student from the  Restore AccessUVA campaign. “It is important that all ongoing efforts from the administration will create an inclusive process, where student voices, and especially the voices of AccessUVa recipients, remain a part of the discussion.”

Ultimately, we hope that these efforts will coincide with the passage of Virginia State Delegate Robert Krupicka’s (D-Arlington, Fairfax, and Alexandria) ‘College For All’ bill, which was recently introduced in the Virginia General Assembly.  This legislation aims to provide increased grant aid to talented students from needy families. Combined with a permanent institutional commitment to low-income students, these two players will ensure that low-income access will never be solely dependent on the whims of the donors.

Overall, we are thrilled that our beloved University of Virginia will continue efforts to remain true to its original Jeffersonian ideal that the University should educate talented students regardless of their wealth. “Because this occurred, I know my class and future students will closely monitor financial aid developments at U.Va. to ensure that it never backs away from low- income students again, and that it will remain affordable and accessible to all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, ” says Sydney Pettiford, U.Va. first year student, from the Restore AccessUVA campaign.