UVa Stops Shafting the Middle Class

UVa President Sullivan got this one right.

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors voted earlier this week to restructure AccessUVa, its student aid program. This fall students from the poorest families will have to take out loans as part of their financial-aid packages just like other students.

The University still will continue its “needs blind” admissions policy, which meets 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need, but it will “standardize” aid packages to include federal student loans for all undergraduates. Previously, students from families with incomes below 200% of federal poverty guidelines, or about $46,100 for a family of four, had been getting a full ride without loans.

The move is expected to save about $6 million a year, helping to offset the increasing need for aid. In 2004-05, 24% of UVa undergrads qualified for need-based aid. Today, 33% do.

The administration justified the change, notes the Times-Dispatch, by arguing that Wahoo grads, regardless of family income, will earn similar salaries upon entering the workforce — averaging about $50,000 a year.

While President Teresa Sullivan endorsed the change, Rector Helen Dragas and one other board member opposed it. Said Dragas: “This action raises the cost of a U.Va. degree substantially for students from low-income families, hurting our diversity and coming at a time when we are already seen as elitist and unwelcoming.”

Bacon’s bottom line: There’s another spin to put on the board’s move, and it’s very different from Dragas’. The new policy creates a level playing field for all UVa students. Most people accept the principle that poor students require more student aid than students from families of greater means. But I find it extraordinary that poor students were getting a full ride while middle-class students were saddled with loans. Talk about social engineering! It is ridiculous to assert that the new policy “hurts” Virginia’s diversity just because poor kids have to take out loans like middle-class kids.

Dragas may worry about UVa’s image as an elitist institution, but if I were her, I’d be a lot more concerned about its image as an institution that favors the affluent and the poor, and screws the middle class…. which is the perception that a lot of middle-class people have.

The administration’s reasoning is exactly right. Wahoos may not enter as socio-economic equals, but they graduate as equals when it comes to their ability to find a job and pay off their student loans. This change corrects an injustice. I’m not sure that the administration necessarily saw the policy as an injustice — it certainly didn’t portray it as such — but all’s well that ends well. Kudos to Sullivan and raspberries to Dragas!

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6 responses to “UVa Stops Shafting the Middle Class”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    While I understand the financial pressures facing Sullivan, U Va needs to keep its doors open to lower income students. I don’t understand Bacon’s vitriolic response here. Perhaps in his experience everybody has a family income of $46K or $50K.

  2. Can poor students and parents actually qualify for loans?

    My view is that a purpose of public tax dollars going to these schools is to allow those of limited means to be able to attend especially if they cannot obtain loans.

    what has changed?


    1. Yes, students from poor families can qualify for federal loans at UVa.

      What has changed is this: UVa gave them a total free ride without the need for any loans. Now, they must take out some loans like everybody else… which they will pay off after they graduate, enter the job market where UVa grads average $50,000 a year and the poverty of their families is an irrelevant consideration.

      1. reed fawell III Avatar
        reed fawell III

        I agree. Twas the right move.

  3. but what has changed ? Poor students could not qualify for student loans before now and now they can?

    I thought the loans were done by the private sector, backed by the govt and you did have to qualify for them.

    what the justification for taxpayers to subsidize middle class families?

  4. the middle class? DANG! Reed and Bacon sound like Obama!

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