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Changes to AccessUVa program

August 5, 2013

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

I write to inform you of a recent change to our AccessUVa financial-aid program and to offer details about what this means for current and future University students. On Saturday, the Board of Visitors voted to reauthorize AccessUVa, with a goal of protecting its most valuable features while placing it on a more sustainable financial path for the future.

The program change will not affect any current students or entering students in 2013. The adjustments will be phased in over a four-year period by class, beginning with the 2014-15 academic year. Once fully implemented, this new approach will help the University moderate escalating program costs by about $6 million per year.

As you know, AccessUVa is a nationally recognized program that positions the University to attract the best students and bolster our socioeconomic diversity through a "need-blind" admission approach.

I am pleased to report that the program will continue to meet 100 percent of the demonstrated need of undergraduate students, regardless of their financial circumstances. This is an important commitment that will help ensure that U.Va. is affordable and accessible.

Continuing to meet this need, however, requires adjustments that can help contain the costs of the program. Since AccessUVa's launch in 2004-05, institutional costs have increased from $11.5 million to more than $40 million. Most of this money comes from tuition. Today, a third of our students qualify for aid, compared with a fourth when the program started. We have known for some time that these rising costs were not sustainable, and the Board asked the administration in 2011 to evaluate the program. Two Board committees - Educational Policy and Finance - participated in the review.
Saturday's reauthorization introduces need-based loans for all students, including, for the first time, our low-income students. These students will continue to receive considerable federal grant aid, and they also receive much of the available state financial aid the University receives. They will also be offered work-study jobs and loans to help meet the demonstrated need.

The reauthorization resolution also puts in place a need-based loan cap of $28,000 for a four-year period, but we project that the actual maximum need-based loans for low income, in-state students will total about $14,000 over four years because their tuition is much lower.

While rising student debt is an issue of national concern, students graduate from U.Va. with very little debt as compared with their peers. In the 2012 academic year, the average need-based loan debt held by our graduates was about $11,700. This was among the lowest in the U.S., where the average student loan debt approached $27,000. At the same time, only 27 percent of our in-state undergraduate students graduated with any need-based debt in 2011-12. 

For more information about the AccessUVa program and its reauthorization, see this FAQ.

Since its founding, AccessUVa has been one of the nation's most generous financial-aid programs. Even after these new changes, the program will continue to meet 100 percent of student need. We will continue to admit all academically qualified students, without regard to their family's financial circumstances.

Teresa A. Sullivan, President