UVa-Wise announces new free-tuition program for Virginia families

Mike Still • Nov 20, 2019 at 5:00 PM

WISE — Starting in the fall of 2020, some Virginia families will be able to send students to the University of Virginia’s College at Wise without the cost of tuition or fees.

College officials on Wednesday announced the UVa-Wise Within Reach program, which will cover tuition and fee costs for students of families with an income of $40,000 or less. The program is for full-time Virginia in-state students seeking a degree.

“The program lets us help Virginia families realize the dream of a college degree is within reach,” Chancellor Donna P. Henry said Wednesday. “We know families often face a steep financial burden when the time comes to send their children to college.

“We hope the program will alleviate some of the worry and financial stress families feel during what is normally a pivotal and exciting time for students and parents,” Henry said.

Chris Dearth, the new vice chancellor for enrollment management, said the Within Reach program came out of a look at the college’s available financial aid, scholarship endowments and growing concerns of families and students looking at a four-year college education.

“It’s something we feel committed to,” Dearth said. “It’s in our blood. We want to help those who have a dream of attaining a bachelor’s degree. We have tremendous resources on campus, including a large number of scholarships and plenty of state financial assistance.”

Within Reach is not based on a new funding stream but on how existing aid is awarded, Dearth said.

“Over the past few years, I’ve seen the college selection process turn more into a purchase than an investment in a college education,” Dearth said. “We want the students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to enter a four-year degree program to have that chance.”

Dearth said the current tuition and fee level for an in-state student is $10,252 a year. While Within Reach does not cover housing, meals and books, he said those costs could be covered by financial aid.

Eligibility for Within Reach will be determined by students’ Free Application for Federal Student Aid, Dearth said, and the FAFSA submission deadline for fall 2020 admission and financial aid is Feb. 15, 2020.

Based on staff calculations done in the program’s planning, Dearth said, the college anticipates that as many as 300-400 students could be eligible for the program in the 2020-21 school year. UVA Wise’s enrollment now stands at about 1,200 full-time equivalents, or a 2,000-headcount enrollment of full- and part-time students, he said.

While the new program gives a boost to families of new students in the fall 2020 semester, Dearth said that returning students meeting the financial requirements also will be eligible.

“We lose a lot of students to the community colleges because they feel they can’t afford a four-year college program,” Dearth said, “and we wanted these students to know that it is possible. We want to ease that burden for the families.”

While not related to the Within Reach program, UVa-Wise in March got General Assembly authorization to offer in-state tuition rates to students across 420 counties in the 13 states served by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Henry at that time said the expansion of in-state tuition could give the college the opportunity to strive for a 500-strong freshman class compared to the current goal of about 325 each year.

For more information on the Within Reach program, call the UVa-Wise Office of Admissions at (276) 328-0102 or email Dearth at admissions@uvawise.edu.