’Hoos entering this fall
U.Va. continues push to welcome diverse class through ‘AccessUVa’
By Dan Heuchert
On April 1, the University mailed letters to 4,765 applicants offering them coveted places in its Class of 2009. They join 980 admitted in the early decision process and 13 students who deferred offers from last year and will enroll this fall.
Those 5,758 students are the survivors of a highly competitive admissions process. The 15,879 total applicants represent a 5.1 percent increase over last year’s total.
There were more applicants in several subsets of the pool as well, including African Americans (1,013 applicants, up 2.7 percent), Asian Americans (1,781 applicants, up 8.4 percent) and international students (828 applicants, up 8 percent).
The University is expected to enroll 3,100 first-year students in the fall — 60 more than last year’s target — part of a plan to boost total enrollment by 1,500 (including graduate students) over the next decade.
“This is an exceptionally strong class,” said John A. Blackburn, dean of admission, who said that most applicants rank in the top 5 percent of their high school graduating classes. “Each class is more selective than the one before. There are powerful kids sitting out there on the waiting list.”
The class is the first admitted since the University widened the eligibility for its innovative AccessUVa financial aid program. Under the program, U.Va. commits to meet 100 percent of every applicant’s demonstrated financial need. Students from families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line — approximately $37,700 for a family of four — will be offered grants-only aid packages; the rest of those with need will be offered a combination of grants, loans and federal work-study, with need-based loans capped at approximately 25 percent of the total in-state cost of education over four years.
Shifting from a need-blind admissions process to what Blackburn termed a “need-conscious” approach, the offices of Admissions and Student Financial Services worked together to identify 797 applicants whose families met the 200-percent income threshold. Of those, 333 qualified for admission.
Every accepted student will soon receive a letter from University President John T. Casteen III about the AccessUVa program, Blackburn said, and those identified during the application process as possibly being eligible for an all-grants package will be contacted by phone.
“If the kids really understand what they are getting — no debt — and really understand the aid awards, it ought to change our yield” of low-income students, Blackburn said.
Admissions officers have long made note of applicants who mentioned factors that track closely with family wealth — things such as economic hardship, single-parent households and first-generation college applicants — in the name of maintaining diversity in entering classes, Blackburn said.
Currently, only 25 percent of U.Va. undergraduates receive financial aid, a figure that Casteen and the Board of Visitors are determined to increase. AccessUVa was designed to address economic disparities, help students understand they can afford U.Va., and reinvigorate the institution’s commitment to affordable education.