Virginia Tech will help reduce cost as a barrier to enrollment by underrepresented and high-achieving students by matching gifts made toward certain scholarships through at least the end of 2017.

University President Tim Sands said investing to match donations to the new Beyond Boundaries Scholars program will help realize several strategic aims: more than doubling the number of underrepresented minorities at the institution by 2022, enrolling far more students from historically underserved populations, and reducing the number of high-achieving students who choose competing schools that can offer more generous financial aid.

“Virginia Tech is incredibly strong in so many areas, but we need to improve our scholarship packages to be as attractive as possible to these key student populations,” Sands said. “We look forward to working with donors to maximize the impact of this program. Beyond Boundaries Scholars will bring outstanding potential and valuable perspectives to our campus. Our entire university community will benefit from their presence.”

The university will match up to 165 qualifying gifts made through at least the end of 2017. Only current-use gifts will be matched; endowed gifts will not be eligible. Gifts of $13,000, $7,000, or $4,000 to scholarships targeting high-achieving students are eligible. Gifts of $6,000, $5,000, or $3,000 targeting underrepresented minorities or historically underserved populations are eligible. The levels were selected in consultation with the Office of Enrollment and Degree Management and address financing gaps that students and their families may face even if they do qualify for some federal aid.

Students who are African-American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, or of Hawaiian or Pacific Islander descent are considered underrepresented minorities at Virginia Tech. Historically underserved students include any first-generation college students, any students from low-income families, and any students from regions of Virginia – such as the Southwest, Southside, and Piedmont – that are significantly underrepresented in the student body.

The name of the matching-gift program comes from the Beyond Boundaries long-range planning initiative now underway at Virginia Tech. Increasing diversity has been one of Sands’ major strategic aims, and other efforts in support of that goal include the InclusiveVT Project 2022 initiative and the College Access Collaborative program. Recent steps to ensure an attractive environment for high-achieving students include elevating what had been the University Honors program to an Honors College.

Associate Vice Provost for College Access Karen Eley Sanders heads a new university initiative, the College Access Collaborative, through which the university partners with schools across the state to encourage underrepresented students to prepare for college and consider applying to Virginia Tech.

“Diversity contributes to creativity, productivity, and problem-solving,” Sanders said. “We have employers telling us they want to hire professionals who are able to work with people from different backgrounds, and they want to build diverse teams within their organizations. I’m excited by the Beyond Boundaries Scholars program because it directly aligns with our mission to remove barriers to higher education for underserved communities.”

Lee Vreeland is vice president of academics for An Achievable Dream Inc., a College Access Collaborative partner which runs three schools in Virginia – two in Newport News and one in Virginia Beach. She works with multiple universities on student recruitment programs, but said Virginia Tech stands out for the academic support systems it has in place for underrepresented students. Expanding financial aid by matching donations is a welcome addition to Virginia Tech’s efforts in this area, she said.

“Financing is huge,” Vreeland said. “In general, people want to believe that college is attainable for anyone. That is just not true. You can have all the mentoring programs and academic support in place, but students can’t stay enrolled if they can’t afford it.”

During a Board of Visitors meeting Nov. 7, Sands announced the goal to increase the percentage of underrepresented minorities to 25 percent of the university’s undergraduate population. Board of Visitors member Dennis Treacy, of Hanover, Virginia, later committed to create a Beyond Boundaries Scholarship targeting underrepresented students.

“Everyone on the board supports this initiative,” he said. “We believe collectively that diversity and inclusion is absolutely a need for Virginia Tech. We need to do better and, together, we will. These matching scholarships are a great idea and show the university’s commitment in this area.”

Also present at the meeting was Horacio Valeiras, of La Jolla, California, whose new scholarship will target high-achieving students.

“Being on the board, I know we need to provide more aid to get these students to enroll,” he said. “It’s crucial for the future of the university, and I think it’s crucial for the future of our country to provide ways for students to pay for education other than loans.”

Questions on how to support the Beyond Boundaries Scholars initiative should be directed to the Advancement Division at 800-533-1144.

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