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UVa students demand Board of Visitors revote on financial aid decision

uva-logoScores of University of Virginia students will gather this Friday, September 20th, at the University of Virginia’s rotunda steps (north side) at 1 p.m. to deliver a petition signed by over 8,000 concerned citizen calling on the University to restore in full its long-standing grant aid commitment to students from low-income families. The Board meets this Friday for the first time since voting to eliminate the school’s no loan program, thereby altering the college’s highly regarded financial aid program, AccessUVa, so that it no longer helps students from low-income families.

The University reports that replacing the grant aid program with up to $28,000 in loans per poor family will save the college some $6 million out of its $1.3 billion dollar annual operating budget (one-half of one percent). UVA’s endowment doubled between 2001 and 2011 to now over $5 billion, making UVA the wealthiest public institution of higher education in the nation. The school will not reduce aid to middle income families participating in the AccessUVA program.

Current UVA students, graduates, faculty, and others have championed the petition calling for restoration of grant aid to students from poor families.

“Diversity has been an ongoing issue at the University with the minority student population sharply declining since my first year here,” says Hajar Ahmed, a senior at the University of Virginia.  “This change to the AccessUVA program threatens the existence of minority organizations altogether.  Once upon a time, UVA took pride in its diverse student population, now I’m not so sure that this is the case.”

Financial aid advocates say the program, first created by President Casteen in 2004, has been a tremendous success. From 2004 to 2009, the number of highly talented students from low-income families present on campus and able to attend UVA debt-free increased by 10 percent – marking a significant increase campus diversity.

“UVA changed my life. As an alumna, it breaks my heart that it’s trying to withdraw support from families just like mine,” says Mary Nguyen Barry, the former AccessUVA recipient who started the online petition.

The University became a national model for student financial aid when it launched AccessUVa in 2004.  Over 50 colleges nationwide, including UVA competitors like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, today maintain no loan and low loan policies for students from low- and middle-income families, respectively.

Without the program, many students would not be able to attend UVA or may be frightened off from college all together. The petition requests that UVA’s no-loan policy for talented, very low-income students be reinstated in its entirety immediately.

To read the petition and the numerous personal stories included in the comments section, go to: http://bit.ly/AccessUVA

For the fact sheet on AccessUVa, go to: http://bit.ly/factsheetAccessUVA


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