Board member Griffin to donate $4 million

Challenge grant will help support need-based financial aid

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The University announced Monday alumnus and Board of Visitors John Griffin has launched a $4 million challenge grant to establish a scholarship fund and reduce loans for low-income students.

“I believe that students from all sorts of economic backgrounds should be encouraged to attend U.Va.,” Griffin said in an email. “Having scholarship money available for this purpose certainly helps.”

Griffin, a 1985 Commerce graduate, will match donations up to $4 million for a potential total of $8 million to fund financial aid at the University.

Financial Aid Interim Director Scott Miller said $3 million of the grant will assist the University’s financial aid program, AccessUVa.

“The development office is doing extensive fundraising efforts from the part of AccessUVa, and this is the first part of it,” Miller said.

Griffin says subsequent donations will be key in enhancing the AccessUVa program.

“I hope this will encourage other donors to start scholarships and also build momentum for an annual giving program,” he said. “It would be great to have an annual event where as a community we can celebrate the inspiring stories of students who were helped by AccessUVa.”

The challenge scholarship will reduce loans low-income students must take out as a result of AccessUVa cuts approved by the Board in August. Those changes eliminated all-grant financial aid packages, requiring students in the program to take out loans capped at $14,000 for in-state students and $28,000 for out-of-state students. The modifications are expected to save $6 million in the University’s budget annually.

To protest the August Board decision, a group of University students formed Restore AccessUVa, a campaign advocating the restoration of the no-loan policy.

“From the students’ side, a lot of the [responses to AccessUVa cuts are] about concerns with the [priorities] of U.Va. as an institution, and the message it sends to [see] where else money was being spent,” said Katy Hutto, a third-year College student and one of the student organizers for the campaign.

Hutto, co-founder of the group United for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity at the University (UFUSED), helped organize a student protest the November Board meeting. Protesters dressed in black and wore duct tape over their mouths with the words “Access Denied” written on them.

Hutto said she is optimistic about the challenge grant.

“We are very excited,” she said. “It will definitely lessen the burden of loans for students … [and] we hope that it will inspire more giving in the future.”

The first $1 million of the grant, with a potential of $2 million pending matching, will go toward establishing the Blue Ridge Scholarship fund for students entering the Class of 2018. Roughly $500,000 will be distributed annually.

“This need-based scholarship will decrease the amount a student would need to pay for college, so we hope this will allow us to enroll students who otherwise might not enroll,” Dean of Admission Greg Roberts said. “We also hope it helps us enroll a more diverse class of students.”

Miller said Student Financial Services is working in conjunction with students, faculty and the Office of Admission to develop specific criteria for the scholarship.

Griffin founded investment firm Blue Ridge Capital in New York, where he earned his professional success.


Published February 4, 2014 in FP test, News

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