The University of Virginia recently pledged to eliminate tuition for in-state students whose families earn less than $80,000 annually, the Associated Press reports. UVA President James Ryan made the announcement during his inaugural address, adding that Virginia students from families earning less than $30,000 annually will receive free room and board, as well. UVA’s tuition for Virginia students is currently $13,700 a year.
“I see a community that opens wide the door to opportunity for first-generation, low- and middle-income students,” Ryan said. “There is more work to be done in this space, but we might as well get started.”
Noting that UVA’s current financial aid policies essentially meet the tuition pledge detailed in Ryan’s speech, university spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn told The Cavalier Daily that UVA leaders “believe it’s important to make an explicit promise that this is what we are going to do going forward as part of UVA’s commitment to Virginia’s low- and middle-income families.”
Free-college programs gaining momentum
In making its announcement, UVA joined a growing number of institutions and states eliminating tuition in hopes of making higher education more attainable for low-income students. Education Dive notes that such college promise efforts remain largely uncoordinated and tenuously funded. And while this election cycle has brought a record number of candidates running on college-affordability proposals, critics have pointed out that free college programs tend to cover only tuition, even though low-income students continue to struggle with housing, textbook, transportation, food, and other costs.