A new scholarship at the University of Virginia is intended to attract more of the best first-generation students from across the country by reducing the financial assistance gap that they would otherwise have to fill with loans.
The Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund Inc. will provide a $5 million donation over five years to establish the Davis First-Generation Scholarship. The contribution will help the University attract, support, and retain a growing number of first-generation college students by offsetting their student debts and making the University a more appealing option for first-generation students and their families.
“I am grateful for this generous commitment from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund, which will allow more first-generation students access to all of the opportunities that UVA offers without the burden of student loans,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “In our strategic plan, we committed to being one of the best universities in the country for first-generation students. This scholarship is another step in realizing that commitment.”
The pledge strengthens UVA’s position as one of only two public colleges that offer need-blind admissions and vow to satisfy 100% of every student’s demonstrated financial need. The Honor the Future campaign and the University’s commitment to provide opportunities for first-generation students prioritize the creation of need-based scholarships.
More than 500 first-generation students were among UVA’s entering class in 2019. The overall number has climbed to 2,724. This year’s class has 16% of first-generation students, up from 13.4% of undergraduates who identified as first-generation in the autumn of 2021 and 10% of all students who identified as such just five years earlier.
“Our mission is to welcome talented students from all walks of life, and we’ve made good progress where first-generation students are concerned,” Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment, said. “These students can be especially reluctant to take out loans for college, and because they’re strong enough to earn admission to UVA, other schools are offering them merit scholarships that eliminate their loans and are hard to turn down. This generous gift from the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund will go a long way toward attracting and enrolling the best students and allowing us to support their success.”
The Davis First-Generation Scholarship will be established in the same way as the Blue Ridge Scholarship program, which was launched in 2014 thanks to a gift from McIntire School of Commerce alumnus John Griffin.
First-generation students who demonstrate financial need and academic distinction will be identified by the Office of Undergraduate Admission and Student Financial Services. The scholarship will be offered to any first-generation college student with financial need from any state in the country, with flexibility in the amount provided to each beneficiary.
As the University anticipates ongoing growth in first-generation students, the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund’s commitment will encourage the best first-generation students to enroll, perhaps adding 30 to 40 more great students to each class.
Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund Inc., founded in 2006, promotes education, arts and culture, the environment, and health.