Virginia Tech’s effort to provide a high-quality educational experience to all students regardless of income has become the Virginia Tech Advantage.

Launched last fall by President Tim Sands with full support of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, the Virginia Tech Advantage will improve the university’s access and affordability for undergraduate students.

When announcing the initiative in October, Sands noted that a Virginia Tech education can be life-changing for graduates and can have a positive impact on their communities and the commonwealth.

“Making this experience more accessible and affordable, especially for those who are underrepresented and underserved, is a foundational part of our land-grant mission to provide a quality educational experience that prepares graduates for service and success,” Sands said.

Menah Pratt, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity, and Matt Holt, professor and head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Science, co-chair the steering committee of the Virginia Tech Advantage initiative.

Sands and the Board of Visitors have identified access and affordability as leading strategic priorities for the university. While Virginia Tech’s graduation rates, mid-career salaries, and loan repayment rates are among the highest in the nation, tuition and fees at public institutions in Virginia are higher than national medians for similar institutions. The scholarships and grants Virginia Tech provides to reduce the cost of attendance for students and families are lower than the university’s peers, especially for low- and middle-income students.

In addition, a Virginia Tech education provides rich experiences with opportunities for learning, research, and discovery inside and outside of the classroom, however, students who are financially stressed may not benefit from all that the university has to offer. The university has found that students who struggle financially often do not have the time and resources to devote to networking and work-based learning such as internships and undergraduate research and are less likely to be successful after graduation.

"I am honored to serve on the steering committee as the representative to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors," said Greta Harris, a member of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. "This is a committed and engaged group and I have the confidence that we will create an impactful model that will further solidify Virginia Tech as a destination of choice for qualified prospective students regardless of finances or background."

Pratt and Holt said the steering committee will provide recommendations to Sands on strategies to make Virginia Tech more affordable and accessible for underserved students, addressing financial feasibility and student success.

A student experience working group seeks to determine how to enhance aspects of the student experience — for example, time to graduation, student retention, graduation rates, and transformational experiences — to improve access and success. The financial feasibility working group looks closely at financial strategies that will support affordability goals for underserved students.

The full membership of the steering committee and the two working groups include a broad team from across the university. More information is available on the Strategic Affairs website.

Virginia Tech Advantage Steering Committee

Menah Pratt
– Strategic Affairs and Diversity
Matt Holt – Agricultural and Applied Economics, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Jeff Earley
– Academic Resource Management
Kristin Gehsmann – School of Education, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Ellington Graves – Inclusion and Diversity
Greta Harris –  Board of Visitors
Luisa Havens Gerardo – Enrollment Management
Tim Hodge – Budget and Financial Planning
Rachel Holloway – Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Elizabeth Hooper – Government and Community Relations
Frances Keene – Student Affairs
Erin McCann – Strategic Planning, Strategic Affairs
Charlie Phlegar – Advancement
Julie Ross – Engineering
Amy Sebring – Financial and Operational Enterprises
Tracy Vosburgh – Communications and Marketing

Financial Feasibility Working Group:

Jeff Earley
 – Academic Resource Management
Luisa Havens Gerardo – Enrollment Management
Tim Hodge – Budget and Financial Planning

Beth Armstrong
 – University Scholarships and Financial Aid, Enrollment Management
Sergio Barrera – Economics, College of Science
Dan Cleveland – Advancement
Elizabeth Hooper – Government and Community Relations
Robert Hopkins II – Strategic Analysis, Academic Resource Management
Sharon Kurek – Audit, Risk, and Compliance
Kevin Sutton – Financial Wellness, Hokie Wellness
Jesse Tuel – Communications and Marketing

Student Experience Working Group:

Rachel Holloway - Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Frances Keene - Student Affairs
Ellington Graves - Inclusion and Diversity

Catherine Amelink
 – Office of the Executive Vice Provost
Takiyah Amin – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, College of Architecture, Arts, and Design
Nathaniel L. Bishop – Diversity, Inclusion, and Student Vitality, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
James Bridgeforth – Student Affairs and ExperienceVT
Tamara Cherry-Clarke – First Generation Student Success, Student Affairs
Melissa Faircloth – American Indian and Indigenous Community Center
Kim Filer – Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Martha Glass – Interim Dean of Students and Student Affairs
Dave Guerin – Provost Communications
Dannette Gomez Beane – Strategic Initiatives, Enrollment Management
Laura Hungerford – Population Health Sciences, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
Estrella Johnson – Inclusion and Diversity, College of Science
Maryam Kamran – Inclusion and Diversity, College of Natural Resources and Environment
DeAnna Katey – Undergraduate Student Programs, College of Engineering
Monica Kimbrell – Undergraduate Academic Affairs, College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences
O’Brian Martin – Equity and Inclusion, Undergraduate Student Senate
Emily McCorkle – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Pamplin College of Business
Eric Paterson – National Security Institute
Nicole Pitterson – Representative from the Faculty Senate
Kevin Pitts – College of Science
Donna Cassell Ratcliffe – Career and Professional Development
Jamal Ross – Board of Visitors Undergraduate Representative
Karen Eley Sanders – College Access Collaborative, Enrollment Management
Kimberly Smith – Student Success Initiatives, Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Chevon Thorpe – Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

This spring, the two working groups are focusing their efforts to meet with and listen to students to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and concerns.

Pratt and Holt plan to update the Board of Visitors of their findings and their work at the June 5-6 quarterly meeting.

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