Mythbusters: Affordability and Socioeconomic Diversity

February 15 is the deadline for this year’s applicants to apply for financial aid at Richmond. Parents, make sure you’re on track to get the proper paperwork filled out – just follow the steps on our financial aid application timeline.

But the financial aid deadline also provides me a great opportunity to speak to everyone – seniors, juniors, sophomores, parents, et al. – about financial aid and socioeconomic diversity at Richmond. This is an area where the reputation of the University lags (by decades) behind the reality. Put simply, longstanding stereotypes tend to paint Richmond as a wealthy, upper-class university for the rich – or, just as bad, “one of the most expensive colleges in the nation.” But these stereotypes could not be further from the truth.

Think Richmond isn’t an affordable college? Or that it isn’t a socioeconomically diverse place? Think again. 70% of our students receive financial aid. Around 2,000 students (about 2/3 of our student body) hold jobs on campus each year (some via federal work-study, others of their own accord). 1 out of every 6 students at Richmond qualifies for federal Pell funding; we’re matching the $2 million we’re getting from the federal government this year with nearly $20 million of our own funding. In total, we’re spending about $65 million this year, from our own resources, on financial aid for a student body of just over 3,000. And the average need-based aid package this year is $40,200. (Yes, you read that number correctly. For students receiving need-based aid at Richmond, the average out-of-pocket cost this year is $12,220 for tuition, room and board. That’s not marketing gimmickry; it’s simple math. And it’s a hard price to beat these days, even at a public university. See this recent article and the linked College Cost Chart, which calculates that for a family with $75,000 in income, Richmond’s actual price is the second-lowest in Virginia, lower than every public university on the list.)

If that’s not putting your money where your mouth is, I’m not sure what is.

There are two big guarantees we make that help ensure an affordable private education and a socioeconomically diverse student body. The first guarantee is that we are need-blind in admission. This term confuses a lot of people, because it sounds negative – but it’s not. It means, quite simply, that we don’t consider your or your family’s finances when making admission decisions. (Another way of putting it would be to say that we are income-blind or wealth-blind in admission.) The second guarantee is that we will meet 100% of demonstrated need for every student who enrolls. Your demonstrated need is calculated via the FAFSA and PROFILE forms, which are used by colleges across the nation to assess how much you and your family can afford to pay; however, only a small percentage of colleges (fewer than 70, at last count) guarantee that they’ll actually fund the remainder of the cost. Richmond is one of these. When you pare the list to colleges that are also need-blind in admission, the number drops to below 35 and represents less than 1% of colleges nationwide.

Our president often says that the University of Richmond is a private university for the public good. In an era when government funding is shrinking and the quality of education at even the best public institutions is in jeopardy, Richmond is using its substantial financial resources to make a high-quality, private, liberal arts education affordable for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The stereotypes just don’t hold; our student body is highly diverse, increasingly so each year.

The bottom line? Only 45% of students in Richmond’s Class of 2011 graduated with college loan debt. And the average debt for these students was $22,500, well below the national average.

Not bad for “one of the most expensive colleges in the nation.”

2 Comments

  1. Stella
    Posted December 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Can I use scholarships I find from sites like htpp://fastweb.com and http://collegewhale.com/ in addition to my fafsa funds for Richmond undergrad, or will this lessen my fafsa amount received?

    Thanks
    Stella

    • Tom
      Posted December 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Stella,

      Most outside scholarship sources will first be used to replace the loan and work-study portions of your financial aid package, thus lessening your debt. After that, however, they will be used to replace Richmond grants, since we can’t award more financial aid than a student qualifies for.


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