Jan 20, 2009

Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant

by Daniel Martinez

The future plans and financial aid of thousands of Liberty students could be affected by the result of the current session of the Virginia General Assembly.

On Jan.15, Governor Tim Kaine put his newest amendment before the General Assembly, proposing large state budget cutbacks brought about by the struggles of the economy. Kaine requested a cutback of $3.6 billion from the overall budget of nearly $76 billion for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, with a special emphasis on cutting the amount of financial aid available to students via the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG).

“The TAG is a program of the Commonwealth of Virginia which provides annual grants to Virginia residents who are full-time students at eligible private colleges and universities in Virginia,” according to the TAG page at www.cicv.org.

Of the 9,700 students who live on the Liberty University campus 1,843 are Virginia residents and are therefore eligible to receive assistance from the VTAG, which has a link available on the Financial Aid Web page at liberty.edu.

The grants, which are offered to both graduate and undergraduate students, can exceed $1,900 a year, are handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis and are not heavy on requirements for application. The online TAG page explains that applicants do not have to “file a financial statement, demonstrate financial need or pay it back,” so long as applicants apply annually by July 31. For the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the total amount of assistance available to students was $60 million.
Kaine’s proposal for the VTAG for the upcoming fiscal year is to cut $2.1 million from the tuition assistance grant, including all grants offered to graduate students.

“It doesn’t bother me personally, because, right now, I’m focused on undergrad,” junior Ben Taylor, who lives in Gainesville, Va., said. “But it will make it difficult for people to pursue higher education.”

Those people include the 362 graduate students who received the grant in the fall of 2008 while attending Liberty, which has the largest amount of student recipients of any school in the state, according to Ray Reed’s coverage of the General Assembly in the News & Advance. If Kaine’s amendment is passed, not one of them will be able to receive

“Graduate students are just as important as undergrad students and need the money just as much,” freshman Lauren Proffitt, who lives in Virginia Beach, said. “I will be a graduate student one day and (will) wish to receive VTAG support.”

The budget amendments, including the cutbacks proposed by Kaine, hit the clerk’s office Friday, where the details of the amendments could be debated at length before a decision is set, according to Mark Creasey, a representative from the office of Virginia Senator Steve Newman.

“It could be six weeks — as long as it takes for the legislators to do battle with the governor,” Creasey said of the pending decision.
According to Reed’s article, there are members of the assembly “drafting a budget amendment that would protect the grants to graduate students,” including Newman and Lynchburg delegate Shannon Valentine.

“The senator is fighting to eliminate the amendment in order to keep financial support for grads and undergrads,” Creasey said of Newman’s position.

“It’s going to resonate in the job market if people can’t get higher education,” Taylor said of the matter pending before the assembly. “I was highly considering it (graduate school) to better equip me to run an advertising or consulting agency.”

While Taylor and Proffitt, who supported Newman’s position, are still undergraduates, there are thousands in the state, including those who attend Liberty, who do not have that time. The current amendment at the General Assembly will decide whether any graduate students in Virginia will receive any money from the VTAG for their next school year.

Contact Daniel Martinez at

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