UVA Today

Katie McNally   /   04.20.16

When Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, he carefully framed it not as an institution where social status equaled access, but one that placed the highest value on individual talents. This approach was essential to cultivating an educated citizenry that could sustain the young American democracy. Nearly 200 years later, UVA remains true to those founding and evolving principles. Access to the University today reflects Jefferson’s vision of an institution where all students who are academically qualified are welcomed — regardless of their ability to pay. University of Virginia undergraduate students annually earn more than $112 million in grants and scholarship support. This unwavering commitment to scholarship takes shape predominantly as need-based support, but also as merit funds, awards reflecting cultural and regional interests, and beyond.

The University of Virginia meets every dollar of financial need. “Our mission as a public university compels us to continue to meet the need, and it’s a worthwhile investment,” President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “We’re a better institution for it, and the result helps ensure a better commonwealth for all citizens.” As it reviews tens of thousands of admission applications each year, UVA doesn’t consider family finances. An application rises or falls on many factors — academic achievement and community contributions among them — but ability to pay for one of the world’s best values in higher education is not one of the deciding factors. For students offered admission, the University joins with them to ensure that those who enroll have the financial support and incentive to pursue a UVA education. Once students have applied for aid, the University offers to meet any student’s demonstrated need, through grants, workstudy and low-interest loans.


students received grants and scholarships in 2014-15


grant and scholarship funding earned


named scholarship funds offered through Student Financial Services

In the 1995-1996 academic year, 4,046 students earned financial scholarships and grants totaling $22.6 million. A decade later, that number reached 4,826, with aid surpassing $42 million. The total amount from grants and scholarships approached $72 million in 2009-2010. Last year, 6,524 students received grants and scholarships worth $112.8 million. This $112.8 million total represents all grant and scholarship funding available to UVA students. It is a combination of funds available directly through the University as well as through external scholarship organizations and state and federal support.

Need-based loan caps ensure that financial aid packages for qualifying Virginians with high financial need do not exceed $1,000 per year in loans, and loan caps for middle-income Virginians are held at $4,500 annually. “UVA students have access to hundreds of scholarships and aid programs to help them meet financial need, providing incentives for the highest-achieving students of any background to attend the University of Virginia,” said Scott Miller, director of student financial aid for Student Financial Services. In addition to the more than 159 named scholarship funds offered through Student Financial Services, each school has an extensive list of funds available to its students, and the Office of Admission partners with numerous independent scholarship organizations supporting UVA students.

Incentives to Excel

Undergraduate students annually earn more than $112 million in grants and scholarship support, including need-based aid, merit funds, awards reflecting cultural and regional interests, and more.

Grant and Scholarship Fund Totals

Grant Money

School Year

Students with Grants and Scholarships

Percent of Student Body

School Year

$112,826,141 Total in Grants & Scholarships


UVA-Funded Scholarships


External, Independent Awards


State & Federal Grants


State & Federal Scholarships


UVA-Funded Grants

Student Indebtedness

Total Cost of In-State Attendance
Annual Loan Limit for In-State
Annual Loan Limit for High Financial Need In-State Students

In 2015, UVA slashed maximum student indebtedness, dramatically lowering loan exposure for Virginians with financial need.


Most University scholarships have a merit element, but there are those that focus specifically on students’ outstanding citizenship, grades, leadership skills or general contributions to their academic community. Among the most generous are the University Achievement Award and the John A. Blackburn Memorial Scholarship. Both are given to students demonstrating outstanding leadership and character while overcoming personal hardship. The University Achievement Award covers all tuition and fees, and the Blackburn Scholarship covers the full cost of attendance.

The Blackburn Scholarship is awarded to one student per year, while approximately 50 students receive the University Achievement Award annually. For third-year mechanical engineering student Darius Carter, the University Achievement Award was a game-changer. “After I visited UVA, I saw how good it was and I knew I wanted to come here, but I also just set myself on the idea that I would have to take out a couple of loans to make it work,” Carter said. “A day after I committed, I got an email saying I’d been selected for the University Achievement Award. It was just a great feeling. A huge burden was lifted off my shoulders.” Like many of his fellow recipients, Carter has continued on a high-achievement path. He leads UVA’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter and plays tuba in the Cavalier Marching Band. Additional merit scholarships are targeted toward volunteer service, community outreach, demonstrated devotion to the University and stellar academic performance.

Sarah Koch





Jefferson Scholar Sarah Koch decided to join UVA’s Army ROTC because she knew she wanted to serve her country after college. Today, the third-year Middle Eastern language and literature major is well on her way to achieving that goal. Koch is a command sergeant major in the Army ROTC and serves on the Middle Eastern Leadership Council. She’s working toward advanced proficiency in Arabic and hopes to use her language skills to help improve on-the-ground communications and community relations in the Middle East. After graduation, the Kansas City-born Koch will take a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Jefferson Scholars

Since 1980, the Jefferson Scholarship has helped bring hundreds of emerging leaders to UVA. This premier scholarship is awarded by the Jefferson Scholars Foundation to students who have demonstrated exceptional talent in leadership, scholarship and citizenship. It includes the cost of tuition and a stipend to cover fees, books, supplies, room, board and personal expenses. The Foundation’s annual program distribution exceeds $7 million.

Following their first year, scholars participate in the Institute of Leadership and Citizenship, a two-week course that includes workshops and a service-learning element.

Scholars also participate in a foreign travel/study experience, underwritten by the Foundation, through the University’s International Studies Office.

Recent Jefferson Scholars have practiced language skills in Morocco, studied sustainability in Denmark and learned about global business in Hong Kong.

Students must be nominated by high school officials. Nominees are evaluated by UVA alumni who volunteer for the Foundation’s selection committees. Regional finalists are invited to Charlottesville for the Jefferson Scholarship Selection Weekend. Thirty-five students were selected during 2015-2016.

Current scholars and alumni span every discipline. Their ranks include eight Rhodes Scholars and pioneering engineers, teachers, artists, scientists, athletes and more.


Through the generous work of local alumni and friends, hundreds of UVA students have access to scholarships with ties to their home regions. These endowed funds range in coverage from entire states to funds for students from specific high schools. These scholarships help add to UVA’s increasingly diverse community by making college a possibility for more students from underrepresented populations. Among the largest is the Bayly-Tiffany Endowed Scholarship for students from Accomack or Northampton counties on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Established in 1929, the Bayly-Tiffany fund provides scholarships of varying levels to about 60 students every year. It awards close to $650,000 annually, and the only firm requirement is that selected students be from the Eastern Shore. “It’s something that any good student on the Eastern Shore strives to get because it gives people an opportunity for upward mobility they might not have otherwise,” said Bayly-Tiffany recipient and third-year biology major Dustin Wessells. “I know UVA is going to give me such a step up when I’m applying to grad school, and if this scholarship hadn’t come, I might have had to settle for a lesser school.” Wessells plans to apply to medical school during his fourth year and largely credits the University’s biology department with making him a competitive applicant.

Darius Carter





Richmond native and third-year mechanical engineering major Darius Carter is a recipient of the University Achievement Award. Carter has been an active member of the University community since day one. In the fall, he takes to the football field on weekends to excite fans as a tuba player in the Cavalier Marching Band. Carter also helps his fellow students succeed by serving as the leader of UVA’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and as a student advisor in the Office of African-American Affairs’ Peer Advisor Program.

Academic Pursuit

Whatever their passions, students inside the Academical Village can access the funds to support their specific research and intellectual interests. Every school has its own roster of funding opportunities, and many individual departments in the College of Arts & Sciences also have their own grants and scholarships available. For those with a global focus, the International Studies Office regularly awards funds to students who wish to explore new cultures and take their research abroad. Awards like the Dee Family Global Scholarship give up to $4,000 to undergraduates who partner with local communities to conduct research in underdeveloped countries. Recipients have used that funding to study everything from Himalayan forestry in Bhutan to the impact of faith on seeking healthcare in South Africa. “The goal of the Dee Family Scholarship is not just to do research but to learn about the process of researching,” said Stacey Hansen, the senior education abroad advisor and operations coordinator for the International Studies Office. “We’re seeing more students come away with a better understanding of how to engage with the local community to carry out responsible, ethical and effective research.”

Other research scholarships offer funding to those who are helping boost their fields of study on the UVA Grounds. The Beckman Scholars program, for example, offers one or more $19,300 annual scholarships to research-oriented students who spend 10 weeks in the summer and 10 hours a week during the school year working in their mentor’s lab. The program is designed for students in chemistry, biochemistry or the biological and medical sciences, but there are similar opportunities for students of all disciplines.


Blue Ridge




Blue Ridge Scholar Tamia Walker-Atwater was inspired at a young age to apply to the University’s School of Nursing. One of six siblings from Caroline County, she knew she wanted to go to UVA after she saw the level of care and respect her little sister received while being treated at the Medical Center. Walker-Atwater is now a second-year in the Nursing School and hopes to use her degree to raise awareness about developmental disorders and promote a better understanding of intellectual disabilities.

Blue Ridge Scholars

In 2014, Board of Visitors member John Griffin launched the Blue Ridge Scholarship with a $4 million challenge gift. Numerous donors helped grow that gift into an endowment meeting its initial goal of $6 million.

That original investment has helped make the promise of a world-class education a reality for more than 180 students who might otherwise have faced financial limitations.

The Office of Admission in partnership with Student Financial Services selects each class of scholars. “A committee goes through admitted students and looks at their academic performance, leadership and their need,” Associate Dean of Admission Valerie Gregory said. Although amounts vary, scholars receive funds for all four undergraduate years. For many, it is life-changing.

“I knew that college wasn’t just an option. I wanted it, and it was something that needed to be done, but how to pay for it was up in the air,” said nursing school student Tamia Walker-Atwater. “The Blue Ridge Scholarship is part of this wonderful package that came from UVA, and I’m eternally grateful for it.”


The University also hosts endowments that alumni and friends have created to honor the cultural outreach and heritage of UVA students. In 2012, the University helped revitalize the Oliver Linwood Perry Jr. Scholarship, which helps to foster growth in Native American communities. Each year, it awards a $2,000 annually renewable scholarship to an incoming student who has demonstrated a history of service in those communities. First-year student and UVA lacrosse player Mikey Herring is the most recent recipient of the Perry Scholarship. A native of Dedham, Mass., Herring made regular visits to see his grandmother on the Onondaga Nation’s reservation near Syracuse, N.Y., when he was growing up. There he and his family worked with local groups to donate clothing and food to those in need. He hopes to continue his involvement with native groups at UVA, too. “I’ve attended one meeting with the Native American Student Union so far, and I want to connect more with the groups here,” said Herring. “It’s something I’m looking forward to.”

By law, the University is not allowed to grant scholarships on the basis of race. However, several independent organizations work with UVA to offer funds to outstanding students of specific racial backgrounds. The Ridley Scholarship fund for African-American students is one of the largest examples. Other culturally oriented scholarships include the Elizabeth Buford Phillips Scholarship — an award for high-achieving female students who have North American ancestry extending prior to the Revolutionary War — and the Marie L. Rose Huguenot Scholarship, granted to meritorious students who can document their descent from a Huguenot ancestor.

Dustin Wessells





Bayly-Tiffany scholarship recipient Dustin Wessells hails from Virginia’s Eastern Shore. A third-year biology major, Wessells hopes to attend medical school after completing his undergraduate degree. He’s already getting some hands-on experience working as a research intern under associate professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences Karen Ingersoll. As part of his internship, he is currently working on UVA’s Bump2be study, a program that aims to help women with type I diabetes manage their blood glucose successfully enough to have safe pregnancies.

A National Leader in Access and Affordability

UVA is one of only two public universities in the country with need-blind admissions, while meeting the full need of all qualifying in-state and out-of-state students.

Ability to pay does not factor into an admission decision. Family finances are considered only after an offer of admission is made and a student has applied for financial aid.

UVA addressed the “middle-class squeeze” for most Virginians with financial need by lowering exposure to student loans.

Nena Evans





Fourth-year statistics major Nena Evans earned both the Richmond Ridley Cain Scholarship and the University Achievement Award. Originally from Mechanicsville, Va., Evans found her niche in service at UVA. A long time Madison House volunteer, Evans now serves as the head program director for its English Speakers of Other Languages Program. After graduation, Evans will start a job as a business intelligence analyst at the Markel Corporation in Richmond and looks forward to finding new ways to give back to her community then.

Ridley Scholarship

The Ridley Scholarship was born out of the first biennial Black Alumni Weekend in 1987 and is administered through the UVA Alumni Association.

It was created in honor of Walter N. Ridley, the first black graduate of the University and the first black person to receive an academic doctoral degree from a historically white, southern college. Today, the Ridley Scholarship Fund represents a family of scholarships awarded to meritorious African-American students.

“We make sure that each scholar meets our three pillars — learning, legacy and leadership,” Doug Smith, vice-chair of the Ridley Board of Directors, said.

The Ridley family of funds includes scholarships for in-state and out-of-state students, as well as regional scholarships like the Richmond Ridley Clarence Cain Endowed Fund, which awards $12,500 annually to a Richmond-area student.

The Office of Admission works with the Ridley Scholarship Committee to help identify candidates, who are invited to Grounds for interviews.

After originating as a scholarship for books in the 1980s, the Ridley Fund has grown tremendously. It now has an endowment of almost $11 million and offers 12 awards and scholarships.

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