UVa Looks to Private Donors to Fund Student Financial Aid

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. ― The University of Virginia is increasingly looking to private donors to cover tuition costs for low-income students amid shrinking state funding.

Virginia’s flagship public university currently raises more than $10 million a year for need-based scholarships, UVa spokesman Anthony de Bryun told the Charlottesville Daily Progress. That’s up from $1.5 million that UVa raised in 2009 for its need-based financial program, AccessUVa.

Like other schools, UVa have had to rely more on private donors to fund financial aid for needy students as public funding has dried up, said Barmak Nassirian, a policy analyst with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

The share of UVa’s academic budget supported by the state declined from 27 percent in 2005 to 10 percent today. Meanwhile, by private donors’ share of the academic budget has risen from 13 percent in 2005 to 20 percent this year.

Schools’ decisions to rely more on public donors could send the message to lawmakers that it’s OK to scale back state funding even further, Nassirian said.

“The question that public institutions should ponder is whether raising the money from private donors takes the pressure off legislatures to fund them,” he said. “The issue becomes: Why should working people pay taxes to fund you?”

Much of the money that UVa raises today goes toward the new Blue Ridge Scholars program, which was started thanks to a $4 million grant by a university board member and supports students from low-income families. Last year, the program covered tuition and fees for 67 students at the university.