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HBCU Boosts Aid to Limit Student Debt

Beginning this fall, academically gifted, low-income Virginia State University students will get enough financial aid to cover 100 percent of their college costs through a new program to limit the debt burden of students at the historically Black university.

University officials tout the new program, called Low Income Families with Talented Students (LIFTS), as “a first-of-its-kind” effort among public HBCUs. The program will cover 75 percent of costs need through grants and limit student loans to 25 percent of the school’s in-state tuition costs over four years for students who meet certain academic criteria.

VSU President Eddie N. Moore, Jr. said the LIFTS program was developed in response to the increased competition for top students. 

“Other schools within Virginia have developed programs similar to LIFTS,” he said, “but I can’t recall another HBCU, particularly a state-supported HBCU, that has put into place such a far-reaching guarantee.

“The competition for top students has become very intense. We know we can provide the academic coursework these students desire, along with the unique experience of attending an HBCU. The LIFTS program makes us equally competitive in the financial aid we can offer to a talented student considering VSU.”

The university joins other institutions looking to improve access to college for gifted, low-income students. Harvard, for instance, offers free tuition to students whose families earn less than $40,000 a year.

Students whose family income is no more than twice the poverty guidelines set by the Department of Health and Human Services. Applicants must be selected as Presidential, Provost or University Scholars and participate in the VSU Honors Program or University Scholars Program. To renew the award, students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and earn at least 30 credit hours per academic year. LIFTS participants will be enrolled in VSU’s Honors Curriculum. 

Officials estimate the LIFTS program will cost about $732,000 in its first year and $2.56 million over the program’s first four years. Based on current figures, 30 percent of current Presidential, Provost and University scholars would be eligible for the LIFTS Program. The program will be financed through donations, tuition increases and existing scholarships.

–Diverse Staff

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