Higher Ed’s Competitive Arms Race, Part Deux

Edward L. Ayers, dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Virginia, is wrestling with the same questions raised recently on this blog regarding the cost and accessibility of higher education. (See his essay, “Flagship universities must pursue excellence and access.”)

The money graph: “We face a dilemma. Because they are so good, public flagship universities are attractive to students; that has enabled them to be highly selective, which in turn has raised them in national college rankings. The more good students who want to come, the better those rankings; the more good students who are turned away, the better still. Public universities brag about the median SAT scores, high-school standing, and GPA’s of their students, just as private colleges do. They have built impressive graduation and retention rates by bringing in students who are likely to stay and to graduate.”

The solution? “The University of Virginia has begun AccessUVa, a program that makes our university free for any qualified applicant whose family’s income is up to 200 percent of the poverty level (or, right now, $37,700 for a family of four). We have also promised that no one will leave U.Va. owing more than a quarter of the four-year cost of attendance for in-state students.”


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  1. Terry M. Avatar
    Terry M.

    UVA is a wonderful institution.

    BUT only 7% of its entering class of first-time full-time freshmen qualify for Pell grants COOL – UVA compared to UC – Berkely where 31% qualify for Pell grants COOL – UC- Berkely. Further, these numbers are based on student counts of 2987 and 3578 respectively. And the final kicker is that only about 2000 of the UVA students are Virginian and the great bulk of the UC students are Californian.

    My point? It is terribly easy for UVA to create a program like AccessUVA with a $2 billion endowment at hand. The real trick though is to deal with other 19,000 new Virginia freshmen at the other public institutions…and all those that couldn’t afford to go in the first place.

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