Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Elite University of Virginia to Become the University Only of the Elite - One of the Premier State Universities Turns It Back on Low and Middle Income Families

Will Push Thousands More Students Into Onerous Debt

One of the great public colleges in America has been the University of Virginia.  Founded by Thomas Jefferson this prestigious school has been a shining example of what public education can be.  UVA as it is known is the standard by which all higher education should be judged.

In the past the school has dedicated itself to providing the incredible opportunity it offers to all students regardless of their ability to pay.

Steve Helber/Associated Press - With plans to scale back financial aid to low- and middle-income students, the University of Virginia joins the ever-growing list of prominent universities that have pared back such program.

The U-Va. Board of Visitors started AccessUVa nearly a decade ago as a financial aid program that essentially covered the cost of attending college for undergraduates who are from families that make less than twice the federal poverty guideline. (This year, that means total earnings of about $31,000 for a single-parent with one child or $47,100 for a family of four.) A leading goal was to increase socioeconomic diversity at U-Va., Virginia’s flagship public university.

But now the university has decided that such a program just costs too much money, in part because the university itself has raised the cost of attending far beyond the rate of inflation and in part because the state of Virginia is not providing the support it should, the state being controlled by conservatives who do not understand the “public” part of the concept of “public education”.

When the program launched in 2004, less than a quarter of undergraduates qualified for AccessUVa. U-Va. has since grown its enrollment and increased its tuition, and now more than a third of students qualify. The program costs more than $40 million per year, up from $11.5 million during the 2004-2005 school year. Much of the AccessUVa money comes from tuition paid by other students.

So the school will just toss the financial burden back onto low and middle income families, making sure that those students and their families incur the huge burden of student loans if they want to attend UVa.

School officials pursued a few options — such as limiting the program to only in-state students or lowering the maximum family income level to qualify — but administrators and some board members instead decided to include federal student loans in the aid packages, shifting the financial burden from the university to students and their families.

Finally, it is not true and this Forum wants to make certain everyone knows that college officials did NOT issue the following statement.

The Administration and Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia

Statement of Principles
August 2013

We the administration and Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia and the governance of the state of Virginia wish to announce that we are severely reducing a program that provided for financial support for low and middle income families and that we have totally abandoned our goal of a student body that represents all levels of income and wealth. 

Instead it is our desire to not only restrict the University student body to wealthy and high income families, but hopefully to return the University to its historic past, when only white males from distinguished wealthy families were admitted.  While we do believe it will not be possible to keep women out of the student body, despite the long history of our success in that endeavor in the past we do think that by imposing huge financial barriers to attendance we can substantially reduce the admission of minorities, and that at some time in the future UVa will once again be an all white, all male school.

No, no one at the University of Virginia has said such a thing.  We cannot, of course, give the same affirmation that no one at the University of Virginia governance has not thought such a thing. 

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