AccessUVa is the financial aid program for the University of Virginia. It guarantees to meet 100 percent of the demonstrated need of students admitted to the University. This important program allows U.Va. to operate with a “need-blind” admission policy that bolsters efforts to attract the best students here and achieve socioeconomic diversity in the student population.
Once a student has accepted an offer of admission, the University works with the student and his or her family to determine if the student has need for financial aid according to federal and University guidelines. In the 2012 academic year, about 33 percent of University students had demonstrated financial need. Financial aid packages are funded from philanthropy, federal grants (Pell) and loans, state grants, institutional resources, and private outside scholarships.
AccessUVa is a nationally recognized and honored financial aid program considered among the finest in the country, particularly among public universities. It is often cited by organizations such as Princeton Review and Forbes, for example, as a top feature contributing to the University’s ranking as a “top value” among institutions of higher education.
The program maintains U.Va.’s commitment to a need-blind admission approach and to covering 100 percent of demonstrated need of students.
The program now standardizes the aid packages among all students. It introduces loans as part of financial-aid packages to low-income students. It also establishes a cap of $28,000 on the amount of need-based loans an undergraduate student may accumulate over a four-year period. The maximum amount of need-based loans for low-income, in-state students is projected to be $14,000 over a four-year period.
The program changes will be implemented for entering undergraduate and new transfer students beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.
Costs of the program have increased dramatically since AccessUVa was launched in 2004-05. In its initial year, the program cost $11.5 million in institutional funds. Last year, the institutional costs exceeded $40 million. The number of U.Va. students with financial need during this time has increased from about one-fourth to one-third of all undergraduates. At the same time, funding for financial aid from federal sources has flattened or declined. The University faced an increasingly urgent need to place AccessUVa on a more sustainable path.
The University remains committed to providing substantial financial aid to its students with the most need. Even after the recent modification to the program, an in-state low-income student participating in AccessUVa would likely receive nearly $20,000 in grant aid from all sources in a single academic year, in addition to $3,500 in need-based loans.
In the first year of the reauthorized program, about 353 additional students will have loans introduced into the mix of financial-aid packages through AccessUVa. At full implementation in 2017-18, approximately 1,375 undergraduates will have need-based loans as part of packages that include institutional grants and work-study.
The Board of Visitors asked the University administration in 2011 to evaluate AccessUVa. At the time, a pattern of rapidly rising costs was well-established and the Board recognized the need to explore ways to make the program more sustainable while protecting its most important features. The University hired an outside consultant to help benchmark the program and develop options. Two Board committees oversaw this work, which lasted almost two years, and made the final recommendation to the full Board.
The committees reviewed several options, such as reducing eligibility for some middle-income students, or reducing grant aid to out-of-state students. Ultimately, the recommendation selected was determined to strike the best balance between preserving U.Va.’s commitment to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need while also addressing rising costs.
In the 2012 academic year the average need-based loan debt held by graduates was about $11,700. Only 27 percent of in-state undergraduate students graduated with any need-based debt in 2011-12.
According to a 2012 salary survey by PayScale, Inc., published by The Wall Street Journal, the average starting salary for University graduates was $52,700.
Endowment funds are managed to provide a permanent source of income to support the teaching, research, and public service missions of the institution. Because endowments are established to exist in perpetuity, endowment funds are usually invested for the long-term. Most endowment spending is dedicated to donor-restricted purposes that institutions are legally bound to uphold. Donors typically restrict their gifts to specific purposes such as establishing student scholarships, creating professorships, instituting new programs, or constructing new facilities. Some donors provide unrestricted gifts that enable institutions to support general operations or special initiatives.
18.9% of the institution’s funding of AccessUVa comes from the distribution of unrestricted endowment that was established for the highest and best purpose as determined by the University. The remainder of the institutional funding for AccessUVa comes primarily from tuition dollars.