Editorial: Low income students are being forced out by budget cut backs
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 29, 2013 23:09
Once again, college has gotten a little less affordable for lower income students. Over the summer the University of Virginia cut back its need based aid program, specifically the grants given to the lowest income students.
The program, called AccessUVa, guaranteed that 100 percent of all students’ financial needs would be met. This allowed the school to use a “need blind” admissions policy, meaning they reviewed applications without considering students’ financial situations. Aid was given on a sliding scale, with loans, grants, scholarships and work-study covering however much a student needed. Lowest income students had their tuition covered in full by grants, scholarships and work-study.
The program was a huge success. Need blind admission meant UVA got the highest-achieving students regardless of their income levels. The percentage of undergraduates qualifying for aid increased almost 10%, and the program was nationally recognized as a model for other institutions. While the school says it still covers 100% of students’ needs, it now requires all students receiving aid to cover some of their tuition with loans.
For some lower income prospective students, this will surely make a UVA education unattainable. In theory well subsidized loans could be a good solution for low income students, but unfortunately UVA capped their loan offerings at $14,000 for in-state students and $28,000 for out of state. Tuition costs are far higher than available loans- about $30,000 for in-state students and $55,000 for out of state – and many of these families can't afford loans. Before the changes, students from four person families making less than twice the federal poverty line ($47,100 for a family of four) would have their costs covered. Low income families simply can’t be expected to cover tuition if it costs more than their yearly income.
The most sickening and inexplicable part of these changes is that the University is making them to save about $6 million a year. Administrators say that the program had grown too large and had to be scaled back in order to remain sustainable. The AccessUVa program has grown, but it’s by no means unaffordable. UVA has an annual budget of $1.4 billion and a $5.3 billion total endowment. The $6 million a year they hope to save represents less than half of 1% of the annual budget. Apparently, that’s too steep a price for giving the poorest students a chance to have an education. UVA didn’t make a tough decision to remain financially stable, they consciously chose to price low income students out.