A University of Virginia donor’s $5 million gift has led to a university scholarship program for students transferring from Piedmont Virginia Community College and the creation of an inter-college liaison to help shepherd students wanting to transfer.
UVa President Jim Ryan announced the program to the school’s Board of Visitors on Friday. UVa will match $4.5 million of the gift to create the $9.5 million Piedmont Scholars program.
Ryan said the donor wanted to remain anonymous.
“This scholarship will cover full in-state tuition and fees throughout their time here,” Ryan said. “We are selecting the first cohort of Piedmont Scholars this spring. When this is up and running, within two years we’ll be able to award 25 scholarships annually.”
Ryan said the donation will bolster the schools’ long-time relationship.
“We have always had a strong relationship with PVCC and this scholarship program will make that relationship even stronger while at the same time providing support for students at both schools,” Ryan said. “Roughly 150 students transfer each year from PVCC to UVa, many of whom have attended local high schools in Charlottesville, Albemarle County and surrounding counties.”
“This partnership is extremely important to Piedmont Virginia Community College, but it’s not new,” PVCC President Frank Friedman told the Board of Visitors. “We’ve had an exemplary partnership between PVCC and UVa since the 1980s. It’s been recognized in the community college world as a national model.”
The scholarship program will only make that partnership stronger, Friedman said.
“This is building on what is already a very strong partnership and taking it to the next level,” he said after the meeting. “Over the last 30 years, thousands of students have transferred and they have proved successful. They’re good students and they’re well-prepared. The transfer students graduate in the same percentage as first year students and they graduate with the same grade point average as those who start out at UVa.”
Friedman said the transfer students are prepped to succeed at UVa.
“Our classes are rigorous and are designed to be as rigorous as classes at any four-year institution,” he said. “That way, if our students do well in our classes, they know they will do well at other universities and at UVa, and past performance has shown that’s true.”
There is a variety of reasons that students attend PVCC before going to UVa, Friedman said, including saving money or beefing up their scholastic skills.
The Piedmont Scholars program will provide scholarships to 25 PVCC students who graduate with associates degrees and transfer to UVa. The scholarships are part of the University Achievement Award program.
Recipients will be selected by UVa’s Office of Admission in coordination with Student Financial Services.
The University Achievement Awards were highlighted in the final report of the university’s Racial Equity Task Force, which credited the program for expanding opportunities for “previously excluded populations.”
The report called for a doubling of the number of University Achievement Awards, “to attract top underrepresented students and first-generation scholars in Virginia.”
For the 25 PVCC graduates to qualify for the awards, they must meet two of six qualifications. The qualifications are: having a history of overcoming adversity; being a first-generation college student; being a member of an under-represented minority or ethnic group; coming from a low or moderate income family; residing in a rural or inner-city location; and being reared in a single-parent household.
“I think the Piedmont Scholars program will benefit the university not just by bringing the best and the brightest students to Grounds, but it’s also going to benefit the entire Charlottesville community by strengthening our partnership between UVa and PVCC,” Ryan said.
An important aspect of the program is the liaison position, which will provide information and guidance to all PVCC students who are considering attending UVa for their bachelor’s degrees.
“This person will provide information about schools, majors and opportunities at UVa; offer guidance around course offerings, credit transfer and the application process, connect PVCC students with meaningful experiences at UVa and be a welcome face when the students actually arrive,” Ryan said.
“The [liaison] addresses something that can be an issue and that is adjustment,” Friedman said. “A transfer student is the new kid on the block at the new school and it’s hard to integrate and engage in communities when you’re the new kid. The liaison is going to be able to help them with that.”
Friedman said the scholarships will help successful students deal with another common issue for transfer students: the cost of tuition.
“The cost of a year at PVCC is about $5,000. The cost at UVa is significantly higher and this will help 25 students deal with that sticker shock,” he said.
The liaison will divide time between the schools and will begin working with students once they show interest in UVa, helping them through the application process and assisting their transfer and arrival on Grounds.
The fund will also support and expand an existing summer “bridge” program for PVCC transfer students to help adjust to UVa prior to their first semester.
“[The program] will bring to Grounds outstanding students from all walks of life, students who will make everyone around them better,” said Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment at UVa.