Feb. 13-26, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 3
Back Issues
IN THIS ISSUE
A Bold Plan
‘Access’ draw praise
Turner: ‘The journey continues’
Raising the Bar
Headlines @ U.Va.
Research yields insight into working families
Team designs computer model to predict pathways of blood vessels
Yvonne Hubbard levels the playing field
Board discusses diversity, tuition and more
Faculty Actions
‘Traditions of Exemplary Women’
U.Va. Health System reaches out to uninsured
Linda Layne discusses pregnancy, feminism and health
Poet-critic Alan Williamson here as Rea Visiting Writer
‘Dada DJ’ and friends spin the vinyl Feb. 17
Manned Mars missions on the horizon

‘Access’ draws praise

By Dan Heuchert

Alex Stolar is a second-year Student Council member from Wilton, Conn. He receives no financial aid, so he will not benefit directly from the Access UVa financial aid plan, unveiled Feb. 6.

But Stolar knows he will benefit in other ways.

“Indirectly, it affects me because of the increased quality of students who will come,” he said. Additionally, the program’s emphasis on grants and limited loans means students who receive aid should be able to take advantage of more extra-curricular opportunities, enriching themselves and the community, he said.

“There are two kinds of learning that go on here, the learning that goes on in the classroom, and the learning that goes on outside,” he said.

That’s the whole point, said University President John T. Casteen III in announcing the program: to allow all prospective students equal access to the University, and to allow them to make choices about their academic and post-graduation careers free from worry about debt.

“If you think about students from low-income families and about the nature of opportunity as they perceive it, to say to those students, ‘Come to college.

You can borrow the money and pay for it later,’ when their family has never had a positive or constructive experience with debt, when debt has been a great threat to the family’s survival or viability, frankly is to promise an opportunity to families and not provide it,” Casteen said.

The program meets head-on a growing national concern. As states increasingly back away from their commitments to funding public higher education — Casteen estimated the total percentage of state support in U.Va.’s next budget will fall below 7 percent — colleges and universities have been forced to replace the lost support with increased tuition revenue. In turn, higher tuition forces some families to take on greater debt, or limit their college choices; other families may be priced out of the market altogether.

By limiting debt — or eliminating it altogether, in the case of the most needy students — Access UVa offers assurances to prospective students that if they make the grade, they can afford to attend the University.

“It’s brilliant,” said Student Council President Daisy Lundy, a third-year student from South Carolina who receives need-based aid. “It’s a bold, trailblazing step for Virginia, to make the No. 1 public university in the country available to anyone who qualifies.”

Details of the plan were circulated among lawmakers in Richmond prior to the announcement, and received favorable reviews, Casteen said. “One legislator told me yesterday that this is what the state should have been doing all along.”

The plan made its public debut during the Board of Visitors Finance Committee meeting. The board members’ immediate concern was not how to pay for it, but how to get the word out.

“This is one of our chances to step out front and show what this institution is all about,” said Thomas A. Saunders. He and several colleagues urged University administrators to aggressively market the plan, which begins this fall.

So far, so good: Favorable reports of the plan appeared the next day in the Washington Post — which called it “the most expansive financial aid effort at a U.S. public university, rivaled in scope only by those at a few elite private institutions” — and the New York Times, plus several other regional and local media outlets.


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