May 8, 2020 : By Liberty University News Service
Liberty University is stepping up to assist its online students during a time when they need grant funding the most.
The Virginia General Assembly met at the end of April to finalize legislation that will ban certain students pursuing online education options in the state from receiving the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG). This is the first time in history that certain types of students have been excluded from eligibility for VTAG funds.
This legislation will impact all private colleges and universities in Virginia.
Liberty recognizes that for many working adults in Virginia, attending classes on campus full time is not an option. So in response, beginning Fall 2020, the university will be offering its own grant program, the Liberty University Tuition Assistance Grant (LUTAG), to qualifying new students* in Virginia with up to $3,400 for undergraduate students and up to $1,700 for graduate students, if those students are denied VTAG grants under the new law.
While virtually all students use online educational resources to some degree, the new legislation seems likely to be implemented in a way that would deprive those students in Virginia who rely more heavily on online learning because of its convenience and affordability — including military students, single-parent working families, lower-income students, emergency response personnel, and minorities — of grants between $1,700 and $3,400 for award year 2020-21 and beyond. LUTAG will protect those students from this loss if they attend Liberty.
“Governor Northam has completely failed a population of students who are playing vital roles within our community while attending school, and they are being penalized for the method in which they choose to have their education delivered,” said Liberty President Jerry Falwell. “This flies in the face of what all schools are being forced to do by providing online education options during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Depending on how it is implemented, the state’s cut in funding could impact thousands of students across the state who enroll for 2020-21. In late January, Liberty urged students to contact their state representatives to express their concern about this issue.
“A majority of the students who are likely to be affected are working Virginians and pay state income taxes,” said Ashley Reich, vice president of Student Financial Services. “They are prepared to balance work, families, and school so they can earn a degree and continue to contribute to Virginia’s workforce. Virginia’s legislature should be leading the way in supporting adult higher education, not discouraging it.”
(The legislation does not apply to current VTAG recipients; they will continue to receive the grants.)
As some families are experiencing a strain on finances and employment in these challenging times, Liberty’s new LUTAG grant program will help students across the state who want to rely more heavily on online learning.
“This is a good example of how a financially sound, business-oriented school can step in and help students in a very practical way when the governor just would not,” said Rob Ritz, chief financial officer. “It’s a shame that the state cuts will hurt other schools’ online students especially at a time when those funds would be so helpful for students who want to finish their education from home. We will continue to welcome all new students, regardless of their circumstances.”
Liberty’s tuition rates remain among the lowest in the state for online courses.
Additionally, Liberty has another scholarship program to allow any students who were enrolled at a Virginia private college in Spring and/or Summer 2020 to transfer to Liberty University without forfeiting the amount of their VTAG grant. LUTAG will not only make up for any cut the new legislation would impose, but Liberty will also add a $3,600 Transfer Student Scholarship for those Virginia students so they can attend for the low cost of $182 per credit hour for their first year.
*A student must be considered domiciled in Virginia and meet other eligibility criteria to be awarded the Liberty University Tuition Assistance Grant (LUTAG). Please visit the grant website for additional eligibility criteria and how to apply. Liberty University reserves the right to annually change the award amounts, eligibility requirements and the populations awarded, as well as discontinue the program.