President Tim Sands and Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke have endorsed the scope of Virginia Tech Advantage, a universitywide commitment to offer a broad educational experience to undergraduate students from Virginia who have financial need, paving the way for the initiative’s ongoing implementation.

Sands and Clarke charged the Virginia Tech Advantage Steering Committee with developing strategies to make the university more affordable and accessible for in-state undergraduate students with financial need and all students who face barriers to success because of a lack of financial support or other resources. Co-chaired by Menah Pratt, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity, and Matt Holt, professor and head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, the committee and two working groups focused on student experience and financial feasibility deliberated throughout the spring and summer months to arrive at a series of strategies to increase financial support for students and enhance support for basic needs, career preparation, and transformational learning experiences.

“Offering a rich and full educational experience to all our Virginia students, including those with financial need, is a foundational part of our land-grant mission,” Sands said. “Virginia Tech Advantage will transform our ability to meet student needs, remove barriers, and envision a future full of opportunity for every Hokie graduate.”

Sands thanked Pratt and Holt, the steering committee and working groups, stakeholders across campus, and the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors for defining an ambitious plan, and he noted the steering committee’s continuing role as an organizing framework for the initiative.  “We’re prepared to take impactful action, move forward, and make a difference, starting now,” Sands said.

Said Pratt, “Our focus on removing financial barriers and advancing student success is clearly linked to the university’s strategic plan, and embedded in our motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). By enhancing financial aid and enriching the educational experience for students in need, we can continue to position Virginia Tech as a destination for talent.”

Virginia Tech Advantage will focus on four support strategies:

  • Reducing unmet financial need for undergraduate Virginians by increasing financial aid and expanding the Presidential Scholarship Initiative
  • Increasing support for basic needs such as food assistance and emergency funds
  • Increasing resources for career preparation by facilitating paid internships and co-ops, offsetting unmet internship costs, and enhancing advising and mentoring
  • Increasing resources for transformational learning activities such as study-abroad and research experiences

The working groups recommended that the Virginia Tech Advantage Steering Committee continue as an organizing framework. The committee’s ongoing work includes developing a sustainable infrastructure for programs and initiatives, removing institutional barriers to student success, developing cost-reduction strategies for student experiences, exploring options to enhance financial feasibility, and aligning the university to support four-year graduation across all degrees.

“The long-term value of a Virginia Tech degree is exceptional,” said Holt. “But undergraduate students with financial need find themselves unable to take full advantage of the opportunities we offer. For example, they may be working the equivalent of a full-time job instead of participating in student organizations or engaging with faculty on research projects. They’re choosing between spending money on food or books and classroom supplies. They’re turning down internships due to the costs of relocation. Through Virginia Tech Advantage, we’re going to close the gap – the financial gap and the experiential gap – for our students.”

Virginia Tech plans to increase its annual financial aid budget by more than $50 million to address the financial barriers impacting approximately 5,500 students. Virginia Tech Advantage will advocate for increased state and federal support, explore pathways to expand paid internships, and launch a fundraising initiative to increase endowed funds and private support for financial aid and student success initiatives. 

A website for Virginia Tech Advantage, now under construction, will be a resource for students and families. The initiative’s progress will be charted on the website and in regular updates through VT News and the Daily Email. 

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