University touts AccessUVa results

AccessUVa will be implemented fully this year for the first time, affecting the newly-arrived Class of 2009, the University's most diverse batch of students ever, according to University officials.

"This year we have a much more diverse population in many ways," Director of Student Financial Services Yvonne Hubbard said. "We attribute a lot of it to AccessUVa."

AccessUVa is a financial aid initiative designed to increase the affordability of the University to all admitted students in response to a marked decrease in lower-income students in recent years.

"We were becoming less and less diverse socioeconomically, losing middle and low-income students to cost," Hubbard said.

Among its aid packages, AccessUVa offers loan-free assistance to students whose incomes are within 200 percent of the federal poverty line -- $37,700 for a family of four.

"AccessUVa opens up a whole additional population," Dean of Admissions John Blackburn said.

This year, 199 students met the criteria for loan-free aid, up from 133 students last year.

"AccessUVa allowed 66 more low-income students to attend the University," Blackburn said.

Although the AccessUVa program specifically targets only diversity in income, the overall variety of incoming students has increased during its first year.

"It is interesting that we also saw an increase in African-American students this year," Blackburn said. "I suspect AccessUVa had some effect on that."

AccessUVa also was used to lure transfer students from Virginia's community college system.

This year, 33 such transfer students were eligible for all-grant aid packages.

According to Hubbard, AccessUVa has aided the process of creating a more varied class.

"Trying to put that mix together is hampered if you need to worry about whether they can afford to come here," Hubbard said.

Next year the program will be expanded to include all transfer students.

Although she hesitated to call the program an absolute success so soon after its implementation, Hubbard said AccessUVa was successful so far.

"We haven't set a lot of absolute goals but want to reverse the trend and see an increase in all income levels receiving aid," Hubbard said.

AccessUVa is expected to be a lasting addition to the financial aid process here at the University.

"This is our financial aid policy and is permanent for the foreseeable future," Hubbard said.

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